ADCNR’s message: Outdoors is for everyone

Grider said it appears that the news media’s portrayal of the nation focuses on polarization and intergroup tensions, but he doesn’t think that picture is entirely accurate.

“If you look at real-life examples, like one of our workshops or outreach events, it couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said. “We have people from all over the world with different backgrounds, different belief systems, different political opinions. All of these things are put aside to focus on doing something outdoors, be it target shooting, hunting, fishing, trapping, or many other outdoor recreation activities. People can put aside these differences and engage in these common themes. It was amazing. I think it speaks to the healing power that nature provides. What it does for your health. And it lays the foundation for building relationships with people who may not look like you, think like you, or act like you.

“We will continue to seek partnership opportunities with user groups interested in getting involved with the department and have an interest in outdoor recreation. We want to be accessible to everyone. It’s an open door policy. We have employees who are excellent at making these connections.”

Some of these partnerships include outreach events at the Montgomery Biscuits and Huntsville Trash Pandas minor league baseball parks. Advertising sponsors include Auburn University Football, as the title sponsor of the Countdown to Kickoff radio show, and Troy Sports Properties, which provides in-game and radio advertising for football, basketball, and baseball games.

“By having a presence at these events, we are able to invite them to the workshops and outreach events and have face-to-face interactions, which increases the likelihood that people will attend workshops, engage with staff and feel comfortable attending which department to contact for information on hunting, fishing, hiking, kayaking or target shooting,” Grider said. “Again, it’s about meeting people where they are and making those connections. I’m really proud of our staff, volunteers and partners and their willingness to get involved, step out of their comfort zone and try new things. It really speaks to nature as it is a common place where everyone can meet in the middle.”

The website also added Google Translation to improve access to new audiences and to highlight the many outdoor amenities, such as shooting ranges, most of the archery parks in the nation, some of the nation’s finest parks in the Alabama State Parks System, and fishing in salt water, including Gulf State Park Pier and Fort Morgan Pier.

Sergeant Bill Freeman, WFF Conservation Enforcement Officer, said even taking out the COVID spike, license sales to people of color are up 17% since 2019.

“I think a lot of our public relations has contributed to that,” Freeman said. “We’ve really accomplished a lot with our HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) with our mentored programs. I really think they see our department in a different light. Our programs are welcoming and easy for everyone to access.”

Freeman gave an example, a fishing event that took place on the lake at Gateway Park Golf Course in Montgomery

“We planned this event with Montgomery Parks and Recreation because more minorities had access,” he said. “It was a great success. I think these events are beginning to turn the tide in terms of minority participation.

“And I recently attended a seminar for women hunters and anglers and providing protein for the family was high on their list. Our younger generation is much more environmentally conscious and wants to know where their food comes from.”

Freeman, who has received multiple awards for diversity from SEAFWA (Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies), said this issue came up during a recent supervised deer hunt in Oak Mountain State Park with a group of students from Alabama A&M and Tuskegee University became clear.

“They were really interested in the meat processing aspect,” he said. “They hunt, but for different reasons than my generation, the baby boomers. The supervised hunting program is a great program because all of these children have never hunted or fished. But once they do, they are so enthusiastic and happy. They have a different idea of ​​what they actually thought was hunting. They are more in touch with nature. You like to be in nature. You understand why we hunt. We don’t hunt for trophies. We hunt to help manage a deer population. When you present it that way, they understand.”

Freeman said another supervised hunt is planned for February 3-4 in Bullock County with A&M, Tuskegee and Auburn University.

“I think we had 11 hunters at Oak Mountain,” he said. “Now we are being inundated with students who want to enroll to learn about our natural spaces. They are like sponges. They take care of the water, the land and what they eat.

“I can’t say enough about our programs, and I can’t say enough about the R3 program because I can see that it’s working. We’re reaching an audience we’ve never reached before. We go to the Black Belt region with fishing training. We went to Perry County, where people had never seen a ranger and knew nothing about our department or our work. I am really looking forward to this work.”