A young boy enjoys getting away from school and outdoors. FWC photo.

From Bob Wattendorf, FWC

School is out for the summer! All across Florida students are putting aside their studies and looking for summer fun. No wonder so many national programs highlight the fun of getting outdoors. June has the most daylight hours, and the longest day of the year, providing plenty of opportunity for families and friends to enjoy nature and each other.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton proclaimed a week in June as Great Outdoors Week; six years later it was extended to Great Outdoors Month. President Barack Obama issued a proclamation urging Americans to spend time in the great outdoors and to uphold our nation’s legacy of conserving our lands for future generations. The proclamation went on to point out numerous opportunities for families and friends to explore, play and grow together, from hiking and wildlife watching to canoeing, hunting, fishing and playing in the neighborhood park – activities that can help kids stay healthy, active and energized.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s 2012 proclamation says that during “Great Outdoors Month, we celebrate the rich blessings of our state’s natural beauty and we renew our commitment to protecting our environment so that we can leave our children and grandchildren a healthy and flourishing land.” It goes on to say, “Great Outdoors Month will encourage cooperative conservation and new technologies to help ensure America’s outdoors remain places where families and friends can learn, exercise, and create meaningful memories.”

Great Outdoors Month highlights the health and social benefits of active fun outdoors andFlorida’s tremendous shared resources of forests, parks, refuges, fish and wildlife management areas and other public lands and waters. Media attention triggers discussion of important issues linked to outdoor recreation, including conservation, volunteerism, health and outdoor ethics.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), along withFlorida’s state parks and Forest Service and national forests, parks and wildlife refuges will all be participating in a variety of activities to support Great Outdoors Month and other specific events occurring in June.

Get Outdoors Florida! will be promoting outdoor events across the state for the month of June on its website, GetOutdoorsFlorida.org. Check it out for details.

By the way, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation is asking Facebook fans (Facebook.com/takemefishing) to choose the “Top Eight State Parks” in the U.S. that have fishing on them.Florida is the only two-time winner of the National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management, as well as being the Fishing Capital of the World, so visit your favorite state park fishing spot then vote. You will then be eligible for weekly Bass Pro gift card giveaways as well as the Grand Prize: an all-expense-paid vacation to its choice of one of the Top Eight State Parks.

June is also recognized as Recreational Fishing Month by VISIT FLORIDA, which helps promote Floridaas the Fishing Capital of the World (FishingCapital.com). Events at its visitors centers will help highlight the tourism value of recreational fishing to Florida. Florida has about a million anglers come from out-of-state each year and they make a substantial contribution to the $7.5 billion economic contribution from recreational fisheries that support nearly 80,000Florida jobs.

The first week in June (June 2-10) is promoted as National Fishing and Boating Week (TakeMeFishing.org).  The FWC supports this effort by providing free saltwater fishing on the first Saturday (June 2) and free freshwater fishing on the second Saturday (June 9). “Florida’s license-free fishing days are an excellent opportunity to share the fun, excitement and togetherness of a fishing trip with the entire family.  This also is a great time for experienced anglers to introduce friends to the sport, even if they don’t have a fishing license,” said Nick Wiley, FWC executive director. “By having these events on weekends, we hope Florida residents and visitors will experience the joy of saltwater and freshwater fishing.  We expect many will discover a healthy sport they can enjoy for a lifetime.” All other fishing rules apply on these days (MyFWC.com/Fishing).

In addition, June 2 is National Trails day (AmericanHiking.org) and the theme is “America’s Largest Trailgating Party!” This is its 20th anniversary. The American Hiking Society is encouraging hikers and volunteers to help maintain their favorite trails and then afterward celebrate with an eco-friendly party at the trailhead. FWC is celebrating acceptance of its third paddling trail designation as part of the national trails system on June 2 at Wacissa River County Park, come out and join them.

June 9 is also National Get Outdoors Day, the primary purpose of which is to increase first-time visitors to public lands and reconnect youth to the great outdoors. As a result, it is a Fee-Free Day for U.S. Department of Interior sites, such as national wildlife refuges, national parks and national forests (Recreation.gov).

Finally the Great American Campout (NWF.org, select Get Outside and Great American Campout) is June 23. Check out their website for great tips, suggestions and to share your adventure. The neat thing about this day is you do it in the safety of your own back yard. Thousands of families sign up for a night of exploration and fun and to share the great outdoors with their children.

Many celebrations take place in June, including Father’s Day.

June is generally believed to be named after the Roman goddess Juno who was the goddess of marriage and youth. So perhaps it is an especially appropriate time for families to get together while school is out and reconnect not only with each other but with nature.

Get OutdoorsFlorida! and enjoy your summer.

Instant licenses are available at MyFWC.com/License or by calling 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356). Report violators by calling 888-404-3922, *FWC or #FWC on your cell phone, or texting to Tip@MyFWC.com. Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and select “more news,” or scr.bi/Fish-busters for more Fish Busters’ Bulletins.


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