Bob Wattendorf, a fisheries biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), recently received the “Conservation Educator of the Year” award from the Florida Wildlife Federation.
In 2008, Wattendorf initiated an effort to bring together a statewide coalition of agencies, universities and businesses to encourage families and children to participate in nature-based recreation. The collaborative effort resulted in formation of Get Outdoors Florida! (www.GetOutdoorsFlorida.org), a coalition of more than 100 active partners, including major state and federal agencies and diverse groups interested in offsetting the problems associated with “nature-deficit disorder,” a term coined by Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods.”
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and his Cabinet recognized the Get Outdoors Florida! Coalition in 2009, when they signed a resolution recognizing the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights for Florida. The coalition, integrated into the Children and Nature Network, is working to extend the reach of such programs as President Barack Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative (www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors), and first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Outside (www.LetsMove.gov) program to combat obesity.
“Conservation education today is all about integrating efforts to introduce newcomers to the beauty and value of an active, nature-based lifestyle,” Wattendorf said.
Researchers have documented the health, education and societal problems associated with too much time spent indoors and dealing with electronic media. Research now shows that embracing a lifestyle change — spending more time outdoors in nature, whether, fishing, birding, paddling, gardening or just hiking in the woods — leads to a happier, healthier and smarter population (www.childrenandnature.org).
During his 31-year career with the FWC, Wattendorf has served to promote Florida as the Fishing Capital of the World, worked with the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation to bring about best practices for “Boating, Fishing and Aquatic Resources Stewardship Education” and helped craft the “Federal Aid Supplement for Aquatic Education Programs.”
The Florida Wildlife Federation is a nonprofit conservation education organization composed of thousands of concerned Floridians and people from all walks of life who have a common interest in preserving, managing and improving Florida’s fish, wildlife, soil, water and plant life. As the state affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation, it has been helping Florida’s wildlife since 1937.
In presenting the award on behalf of the Federation, Preston Robertson, vice president for conservation, praised Wattendorf “for his tremendous efforts on behalf of conservation and the need to get Floridians outside and into the natural world.”
Till next time tight lines and good fishing….
From Staff Writer BASSonline –
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