Last week the Illinois Department of Natural Resource’s popular Urban Fishing Program was among a list of ten actions that a conservative group calling itself the Illinois Policy Institute is asking Gov. Quinn to veto.
The program, which has been in existence since 1985, was first introduced in Chicago to “teach individuals of all ages to fish, to enhance fishing opportunities in populated areas, and to give participants an understanding of and a greater appreciation for natural resources.” Since 1994, the Program has expanded to include free summer fishing clinics and school fishing programs across the state.
The budgeted cost for the 2011 Program is $365,400. This money comes from a dedicated Illinois Fish and Wildlife fund supported by fees on fishing and hunting licenses, and a share of a federal excise tax on sporting goods. So even if the Governor did veto this expenditure, the funds cannot be spent on anything but fish and wildlife programs.
The Illinois Policy Institute claim that “while the program may have good intentions, teaching fishing skills is not a core government service” misses the core of the Program’s benefit to state.
Exposing children to fishing instills a love of the outdoors, which in turn stands to benefit the state both environmentally and economically. Last summer nearly 20,000 youth participated in one of the 1,126 Urban Fishing Clinics held across the state. This outdoor experience, a first for many youth, increases the likelihood that they will become strong advocates for the environment as adults.
Reports also show that kids are more likely to fish when they become adults if they experience fishing before reaching high school age. This adds up to big economic benefits for the state when you consider that over $2 billion is annually spent in Illinois on hunting and fishing, enough to support 22,000 jobs and a $700 million annual payroll. (Source)
The environmental and economic benefits outlined above, along with the physical and mental health benefits put forth in Put Down the Electronic Gadgets and Get Outside This Weekend! add up to $365,400 well spent dollars.