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The fishing's great, and today it's free
Kid-friendly events highlight contributions of outdoorsmen
Tim Lyle, right, a business owner from Oakwood, tries out a rifle while Jeremy Holt, a foreman with Lyle Contracting Service, looks on Friday inside the Oakwood Sportsmen's Lodge. Today is National Hunting and Fishing Day. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

If you like the great outdoors, thank a hunter or a fisherman.

That's the message of today's "National Hunting and Fishing Day," with events scheduled across Georgia to mark the occasion here.

And while deer-hunting season for most folks is nearly a month away, there should be plenty of good fishing today. Unicoi State Park, Buford Dam and the Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery are hosting kid-friendly events to promote fishing, and Georgia has lifted its fishing license requirements for all public waters for the day.

National Hunting and Fishing Day was established by Congress in 1972 to recognize the contributions of hunters and anglers to wildlife conservation programs, through licensing fees and special taxes as well as environmental activism.

Hunters and anglers have been at the forefront of conservation efforts since the movement began in the 1930s, said Joshua Winchell, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"It was the members of the sporting communities who stood up and said we want to pay to help protect these natural resources for everyone," Winchell said. "Sportsmen continue to stand up and foot the bill for a lot of conservation efforts going on in the states."

U.S. Fish and Wildlife distributes more than $10 billion to the 50 states each year through the federal wildlife and sports fish restoration acts, funded through excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment and fishing tackle.

In Georgia, the state brings in revenues from hunting and fishing licenses sold by the Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division. There are about 481,000 licensed hunters and 1.1 million licensed anglers in the state.

The revenues from those licenses "help conservation efforts of a multitude of wildlife species and their habitats," said Melissa Cummings, a DNR spokeswoman. "Hunters and anglers have a direct impact on all Georgians."

The economic boost from hunting and fishing is significant as well, officials said.

The state estimates the annual spending of Georgia's sportsmen at $1.7 billion, more than the combined cash receipts for cotton, eggs and cattle.

And through licensing programs like the federal "duck stamp," which funds wetlands preservation, hunters continue to pour hundreds of millions into land conservation each year.

By one estimate, the nation's 34 million sportsmen generate $100,000 every 30 minutes for fish, wildlife and habitat programs.

Said Martha Nudel of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, "Hunters understood at the early outset the importance of habitat conservation and wildlife conservation - long before the mainstream people got on board.

"It's an American tradition," she said. "Both hunting and fishing."


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