Give a child a fish to eat and they are happy for a day. Teach a child to fish and you instill a sense of wonder and excitement that could lead to a lifelong hobby! Studies have shown that the time we spend outside helps alleviate stress while also providing benefits to our mental and physical health. Even taking just five minutes a day to engage with the natural world can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. A connection with nature, whether it’s hiking, fishing, camping, hunting, or simply being outside, helps people develop positive attitudes and behaviors towards the environment. Positive interactions with the environment can lead to a life-long interest in enjoying and preserving nature.
However, nationally and in Alaska adults and youth are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature, with serious negative implications for their well-being and the future of conservation. Many of us spend a good portion of our time indoors using electronic media, watching television, playing video games or surfing the Internet. People value and conserve what they care about, and they care about what they have directly experienced.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s passionate and knowledgeable employees are well positioned to help reverse this trend. The Service recently adopted “Connecting People with Nature, Ensuring the Future of Conservation” as one of its highest priorities. By focusing on connecting especially children with nature, we not only help ensure that we have future support for our conservation efforts but, by extension, also help connect those kids with their parents, grandparents and other family members.
In support of the Connecting People with Nature effort, staff at the Kenai Fish & Wildlife Field Office have committed to maintaining and creating opportunities for people to experience the outdoors in enjoyable and meaningful ways. Some of the programs and events we and our partners are offering this summer include the Fishing Rod Loaner Program, the Kenai River Festival, and the first annual Kenai Peninsula Weed Smackdown event.
Fishing Rod Loaner Program
The Fishing Rod Loaner Program is run in conjunction with the Kenai Community Library and the Soldotna Public Library. Kids, ages 15 and under, with parental consent can check out a fishing rod the same way they would check out a library book. A parent or legal guardian must have a valid library card to participate. You can fill out the registration form at the library. When kids check out a fishing rod, they also receive information on knot tying, fishing safety, local fishing hot spots, and a copy of the state fishing regulations. Our goal is to make it easy for any child to begin fishing! Encouraging kids to take an interest in outdoor hobbies like fishing, allows them to experience the wonder of nature at an early age while introducing them to a lifelong hobby
dependent upon the conservation of fish and their habitats! For more information, please contact either the Kenai Community Library at 907-283-4378 or Soldotna Public Library at 907-262-4227.
Kenai River Festival
The Kenai River Festival is a fun, free annual event hosted by the Kenai Watershed Forum. The Kenai Fish and Wildlife Field Office’s theme at our tent this year focuses on the “Kenai River Watershed.” Our tent offers hands on learning activities for children and adults. Through crafts and games, kids will learn about the Kenai River watershed, identifying salmon and insects, and the problems created by invasive species. One of our most popular events is the “casting” session where kids practice with rod & reel, and learn fishing safety and ethics. The Kenai River Festival will be held Saturday and Sunday during National Fishing Week at the Soldotna Creek Park. Come join us and learn about our Kenai River Watershed!
Weed Smackdown Event
The Kenai Peninsula Weed Smackdown event is new this year and we hope to make it an annual event. This is a fun and friendly competition to control invasive weeds on the Kenai Peninsula. This year, the competition also goes statewide! Kenai Peninsula teams will match their efforts against teams in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Help us trounce the other teams and make the Kenai Peninsula the most weed-free area in the state! We will begin with registration, two hours of weed pulling followed by a weed weigh in, then lunch and prizes.
Fewer weeds mean better habitats for fish, moose and other animals, but invasive plants are spreading rapidly throughout the peninsula. This event provides an opportunity to promote public awareness and support for maintaining the natural world while gaining an understanding for the importance of a healthy native environment. The event will take place next to the Kenai soccer field on Saturday, June 25, during Alaska Invasive Weed Awareness Week. Come prepared to spend a few hours outside enjoying some exercise, fresh air, fun competition and win some great prizes!
The natural world is part of our heritage. If our children grow up without the chance to develop a relationship with the land that they live on, who will be there to preserve and protect this resource for future generations? It is up to us to make opportunities for youth to experience the natural world so that someday they may do the same for their children. Today’s kids are the decision makers of the future. By focusing on connecting children and their families with nature, we are helping to ensure that future generations support our conservation efforts. Now, let’s go outside!
“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”
— Native American proverb.
Cheryl Anderson is a Fish and Wildlife Biologist with the Kenai Fish & Wildlife Field Office 907-262-9863. Check their website at http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/fieldoffice/kenai/index.htm or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/USFWS_Region-7-Fisheries-and-Habitat/180349382004304.