NWTF R3 Initiative
Kids Outdoor Outpost December 2018
Last month, we introduced you to Lynn Lewis, formerly with the National Wildlife Turkey Federation and now with the National Forest Service. She has been a strong advocate of the hunter-retention program called the “R3 Initiative,” which stands for “recruiting, retaining and reactivating” hunters.
Joe: Lynn, much of the R3 drive is directed at young hunters. Is there much of an effort to bring back those who may have hunted at one time and then quit?
Lynn: During my time with the NWTF, we shifted some of our programing to focus on reaching adults, which is a group that has until recently been completely neglected (except for disabled or veterans groups). Adults have the authority, interest and means to take up hunting, which children do not have, so we’re able to integrate adults more quickly relatively speaking.
Also, in the past we’ve done more of the one-and-done events, which is a great way to introduce folks to hunting but is a long way from creating a self-identifying, lifetime hunter. This shift in thinking has now been embraced nationwide by many groups as we recognize that solely focusing on the youth has not and will not stem hunter loss, let alone reverse it.
However, this type of extended, multi-event adult programming takes a lot more time, effort and commitment. We really need more mentors willing to take adults, that may be very different from them, out in the woods. We also need landowners willing to host adult hunts. This is a cultural shift within our own hunting community that is challenging.
Joe: What role does hunter education play in the new strategy?
Lynn: Hunter education is important for not only obvious safety reasons but also just basic understanding of why hunting is important and the role it plays in wildlife management. However, it must not become a barrier for reaching those we are aiming for in R3. The same goes for hunting regulations, which are very necessary to protect our resources but can be so confusing and intimidating that many are afraid to hunt for fear running afoul of the law.
Joe: What does the future look like for hunters in our state? Is public land that is available to hunt increasing or decreasing?
Lynn: The current focus on R3 and hunting access has created a lot of benefits for Georgia hunters. One argument by some has been that if we bring more hunters into the fold, then we’ll have fewer places to hunt and lesser quality hunts. To help address that issue, agencies and partners are focusing on hunting access in tandem with R3. The DNR Real Estate Division has done a phenomenal job in the past 5 to 10 years of garnering funding for land acquisitions and has added many, many thousands of acres to our WMA system.
Joe: Can you sum up these efforts?
Lynn: In addition to the above efforts, the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act was voted on in November and passed. It now opens the door to a steady funding source to the tune of around $20 to 30 million every year for land purchases, including the funding for management of that property. This is a huge opportunity to greatly expand our public lands that provide clean water and air, green space, recreation and wildlife habitat for game and nongame species.