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Give Back to the Outdoor Community in 2022

The arrival of 2022 is just around the bend.

The new year gives us a segue to reset, recharge and re-focus our energies. In all sincerity, the new year allows us to curb our bad habits, improve ourselves, change our outlook on life to a positive one and see how we can make a difference.

As avid outdoors-persons, the new year affords us an opportunity to give back to the outdoor community and natural world in the forms of our time, talent and treasure. And it’s very rewarding!

So, as an outdoor enthusiast, what can you do, how can you help?

Nebraska Youth Fishing Instructor, Larry Pape of Lincoln, NE, works with a youth during a how-to, on-the-water fishing event tailored for kids and families. Photo courtesy of NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Here are three easy ways and and a slew of ideas for you to consider when making your new year’s ‘outdoor’ resolutions:

1. Volunteer. There is an array of wonderful, worthwhile volunteer programs available where you could get officially certified to assist individuals with learning outdoor activities through the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Think about your passion when you step outside!

You could become a safety education instructor for firearm hunting, archery hunting or boating. You could become a mentor in a particular hunting program. You could become a campground host, or a general parks volunteer in the Nebraska state park system, like me.  You could become a youth fishing instructor. You could become a Master Naturalist via the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UN-L).

As an educator, you could become involved with Project WILD — A unique, interdisciplinary, hands-on learning approach and curriculum for youth that applies key wildlife conservation and environmental education concepts. You could join one or more of the many fine non-governmental, nonprofit conservation organizations (e.g Pheasants and Quail Forever, Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, Nebraska Walleye Association, etc.).

A certified Nebraska firearm hunter education instructor talks to students at a field day session being held at Ponca State Park’s Eric Wiebe outdoor shooting range complex. Photo courtesy of NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

2. Mentor/Coach. Take someone new under your wing and mentor/coach them in an outdoor recreation lifestyle, especially someone who does not look or act like you!

Mentoring or coaching consists of a long-term relationship directed at supporting the growth and development of the mentee.

There is such enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment when veteran hunters, trappers, anglers, boaters, campers, hikers, bikers, horseback riders and bird watchers with many years of experience share their wealth of knowledge and expertise with someone completely new to the outdoor lifestyle, particularly youth.

Bringing a first-time hunter to the field, for example, is not only a rewarding venture, but it can also help a seasoned hunter pick up new things. Having to break down aspects of the hunt that seem second nature can force the longtime hunter to realign on the simple things which may have been overlooked or are missing.

Remember, whether they are family members, close friends, neighbors or mere acquaintances, mentoring/coaching newcomers in outdoor activities provides not only fun, pleasant lifelong memories for them, but the opportunity for you to reinvest in the outdoor recreational culture and help ensure a good future for conservation. The lessons taught in mentoring and coaching build a better understanding and appreciation of our natural, cultural and public resources.

Reflect for a moment, didn’t someone mentor or coach you in your favorite outdoor activity?

Daryl Bauer of Lincoln, NE (far right) has successfully mentored both of his children (Daniel Bauer far left and Emily Bauer middle) in various outdoor activities like spring wild turkey hunting in Nebraska. Here they are celebrating Emily’s harvest of a nice-sized, adult tom turkey during a past season. Photo courtesy of Daryl Bauer/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

3. Donate. Money matters and every dollar counts for funds that solely run on donations! There are three funds in Nebraska that help people and wildlife that are in major need of tax-deductible monetary donations from you.

They are the Hunters Helping the Hungry (HHH), Wildlife Conservation Fund (WCF) and Wildlife Crimestoppers (WC).

Hunters Helping the Hungry is a program where hunters may donate whole, field-dressed adult deer at participating meat processors to be distributed by charitable organizations, homeless shelters and food pantries to those in-need statewide. The participating processors are paid through cash donations to the program to professionally process deer donated by hunters. This fund is critically low.

The Wildlife Conservation Fund allows donations to  made directly or on your Nebraska State Income Tax form. This fund greatly helps those at-risk wildlife species considered non-game, or those that are not hunted, trapped or fished for. Donated dollars have big impact, since Wildlife Conservation Fund monies are matched with other grants, so that a dollar donated in the WCF  actually becomes 4 dollars for assisting wildlife.

Wildlife Crimestoppers is a cooperative wildlife law enforcement program sponsored by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Nebraska Wildlife Protector’s Association. Its purpose is to protect wildlife from illegal poaching. Wildlife Crimestoppers is similar to the well-known Crime Stoppers program and offers rewards for information resulting in charges filed for game law violations. Donations are always needed and continually being sought for the reward fund of the program.

A poster seeking information on an wildlife violation developed by a conservation officer in the fall of 2021. Image courtesy of the Law Enforcement Division of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

You can get more details on any of these items by visiting OutdoorNebraska.gov

Happy New Year!

Here I am (third from right to left) , along with other volunteer living historians, serving as a U.S. Army Soldier in the 1820’s at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Fort Calhoun, NE for a special event. Photo by Jo Momsen/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Communications and Marketing Specialist and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media channels, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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