April is Children & Nature Awareness Month…TRY SOMETHING NEW!

Fish Busters’ Bulletin, April column
By FWC’s Bob Wattendorf
Media contact: Bob Wattendorf, 850-488-0520

Try something new for Children & Nature Awareness Month

Children and nature. It doesn’t get more wholesome and natural than that. So, why all the fuss and need to designate April as “Children & Nature Awareness Month”?

The unfortunate facts are that Americans are becoming more tethered to electronic screens, joysticks and keypads than they are to the panoramic view, sights and sounds of unbridled nature, or the feel of a fishing rod in their hands and fresh soil beneath their feet. According to the Keiser Family Foundation, the amount of screen time increases with age, and schoolchildren are already spending 7.5 hours a day on electronic media!

Research published by the American Heart Association reported that people who watched four hours or more of TV per day were 80-percent more likely to die from heart disease and 46-percent more likely to die from any cause, based on a six-year study that involved 8,800 adults with no history of heart conditions.

The amazing thing was that intense physical activity did not necessarily offset the sedentary time spent sitting around. This is one reason scientists think the current generation of youths may be the first in history to have a shorter lifespan than their parents’ lifespan.

Moreover, youths may suffer from attention deficit disorder, depression and low school grades due to lessened work productivity because of this trend. Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods,” called it “nature deficit disorder.”

There is good news, though. The cure is simple: Children and adults should get outdoors and enjoy free “playtime” in nature.

The great news is that active, nature-based recreation is fun, inexpensive and widely available year-round throughout Florida.

I am the chairman of the Get Outdoors Florida! Coalition that seeks to connect youth to the outdoors through active, nature-based recreation to help them lead happier, healthier and smarter lifestyles and to become better resource stewards. Imagine my pride when my grandson, Luke, said recently that it was so much more fun to be outdoors that watching TV reruns or playing interactive video games that quickly become boring.

This April, find a way to connect with a child or two you care about and enhance their prospects for a happier, healthier and smarter future by getting them outdoors. A variety of events will be taking place around the state and country, giving many people the chance to find something fun to do outdoors with children.

Children & Nature Awareness Month is all about that.

One special opportunity, if fishing is your thing, is the Free Freshwater Fishing Weekend on April 2-3, during which you can fish in any open public freshwater fishing body throughout Florida, without purchasing a license (all other rules apply). The Outdoor Foundation considers fishing one of the key gateway activities to other forms of outdoor recreation.

This April consider becoming an Anglers’ Legacy Ambassador. Anglers’ Legacy is simply about making a promise to introduce somebody new to fishing. There is no membership fee and no obligation. Visit AnglersLegacy.org and complete the pledge, entering FLFWC as the partner code.

Check out these websites for places to go, things to do, and information about the benefits of getting outdoors.

Instant licenses are available at MyFWC.com/License or by calling 888-FISHFLORIDA (347-4356). Report violators by calling *FWC or #FWC on your cell, or 888-404-3922. Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing/ for more Fish Busters’ columns.