By Garrett Boudinot, Outreach Team member
There’s something special about face-to-face conversations these days. So much of our lives are now lived on a screen, and COVID only exacerbated our increasingly-remote social networking. So to be a part of the Colorado Wildlife Council’s Outreach Team, actively seeking out in-person conversation (albeit through a mask), was more than just a job, it was an escape.
We spent the summer talking with folks at events, State Parks, and farmers markets. We gave out free merchandise like t-shirts, koozies, and stickers to spread the word about the Council. We set up eye-catching wildlife statues and banners with messages that informed visitors about specific wildlife conservation information and statistics. And while we were certainly there to share the Colorado Wildlife Council’s message with others, we were also there to listen and learn in return.
We learned that people are proud of Colorado’s wildlife, and overwhelmingly support the conservation work that helps wildlife thrive. But we also learned that most folks aren’t aware of how conservation work is funded, which is primarily through hunting and fishing license fees. This realization made our work seem even more important – we were providing a public service by empowering people with information that has real consequences. Under the North American Conservation Model, every state gets the majority of its conservation funds from hunting and fishing, and in order to keep up with increasing conservation needs, we need increased support for hunting and fishing. Having conversations that got into the weeds on conservation policy helped me learn more about my own role in the environment, and help others realize theirs.
I joined the Colorado Wildlife Council’s Outreach Team to engage with my community – and did I ever. After years of recreating outdoors, I finally got the chance to connect with others about outdoor recreation. And after years of caring about conservation, I got a new chance to contribute to it, by raising awareness of how conservation work all comes together. In the process, I got a few sunburns, found a few new favorite spots, made new friends, and laughed a lot. And while I may not be around for next year’s outreach season, I’ll carry this year’s stories, lessons, and conservation conversations with me for years to come.