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Rod, Gun and Game: Children need nature, the impact of fresh air

SPRINGVILLE — Most of us parents and grandparents today face the same challenge: getting the kids away from an outrageous number of screens and into the outside world of nature.

In the old days, a drive around town would find kids playing catch with a baseball, throwing a football, playing street basketball and other unorganized sports, where life was learned because, for one, not everyone received a place on the team, every time. Not everybody passed their grade level in school; some did not advance. We learned to understand failure and that we had to work to achieve a goal.

There was the joy of success, there was heartbreak and there was quiet time to reflect on the experience of life in the outdoors, with others and with nature, without man-made electronic coaching and coaxing. We got exercise and fresh air, we discovered that mosquitoes like sweat and that cold water from a lawn hose on a hot summer day was not such a dangerous thing. We all survived! Our antibody levels were thriving, too!

Weekend time today is consumed with organized opportunities to displace family time, on the weekends. You have to wonder what is happening in Denver, where three mass shootings have occurred since Columbine, 10 years ago.

I am certainly not a psychologist, but it doesn’t take much more than a little common sense to figure this out.

Kids and folks today need more family time and more time to visit the outdoors and listen to the clouds, feel the rain, smell the roses, see a shooting star before sunrise, touch the snow, cast a fishing line, spend some quiet time and displace the everyday stress of our competitive world of e-everything. We need such time to learn that feelings of excitement and anticipation and disappointment too, are natural gifts.

Even old toys, like Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs, allowed us to develop hands-on skills. We had handwritten library cards, remember those? We had to think about what we were writing, instead of talking to our iPhone and pressing the send button that transforms our voice into a text message.

All of these little moments of time to do things by hand allowed for learning and it allowed for discussion time, with others in the family.

It provided for our emotional, physical, mental and spiritual well-being and personal development, in a family-reinforced way of living. Many folks agree that we need to try and find a way to get that back. We never would have imagined Columbine or Sandy Hook with all those family values and love. Indeed, with a little thought, we may know precisely what is missing, today.

There is one nature-friendly organization, working in conjunction with Eco-America, that seems to have a good start on a solution and is working to spread this word, through a group known as the Children and Nature Network. Last year, when I visited Alaska, I met a wonderful author, Richard Louv, and heard the term “Nature Deficit Disorder.” He used that term when he spoke to a group I was with and explained that he coined that phrase in his publication and bestselling book entitled, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.” In 2011, he wrote another book, “The Nature Principle; Reconnecting Life in a Virtual Age,” extending the same thoughts to adults. I bought both books and had lunch with Louv, an experience that has helped change my views on modern life.

Many recent studies focus on what is gained through more exposure to natural settings, including nearby nature in urban places. Many stories and links about such topics can be found at the Children & Nature Network website. C&NN was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working to reconnect children with nature. The organization believes that more research is necessary, to better define the influence of nature experiences on human development. Howard Frumkin, dean of the School of Public Health, University of Washington, said, “We know enough to act.” Frumkin currently serves as chairman of the C&NN board of directors.

That group is helping lead the international movement to connect children, families and communities to the natural world. The network provides a critical link between researchers, individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to the health and well-being of children, families and communities.

If you have time, over this coming holiday, visit, for more information.

Christmas gift book

I just finished reading “Reflections Under the Big Pine” and found it to be a heartwarming 208-page book written by KJ Houtman and Bill Miller. The book is intended to highlight and reflect treasured moments in the outdoors, with a link to bible phrases and the kindred spirits of our creator. Houtman said that the book was inspired by many unforgettable things, such as the hoot of a great horned owl, a foggy morning boat ride, a 10-pound walleye in the net, the loyalty of a great dog and similar moments we all share, in the journey of life. Visit or, to purchase the book.

NYS license system shutdown coming

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced that, beginning Dec. 26, the public will not be able to purchase hunting, fishing or trapping licenses, secure a recreational marine fishing registration or report their harvested game, while a new computerized system is being installed.

This “blackout period” is a first for New York, but it is all part of a larger effort to help make the current computerized licensing system more efficient. It is expected to take approximately one-two weeks. Hunters are required, by law, to report deer, bear and turkey harvested, pursuant to a hunting license, within seven days of taking the animal.

During the blackout period, hunters will not be able to report their harvests. However, they will be given a seven-day grace period to report, once the new system is up and running. Small game, waterfowl hunting seasons and many fishing seasons will remain open, during this time. As soon as the new system is back online, NYSDEC will notify sportsmen and the public.

Sportsmen provide more funding for game management, fish hatchery support and official health and welfare studies for fish and game than any other source in the state.

New wild boar law

In recent years, wild Eurasian boar populations in the southern United States have become well established and have created health and safety issues for southern folks. The boars carry many diseases, will destroy farm crops and have a penchant for digging holes in dirt airport landing strips, too. In the last few years, wild boars have appeared in northern states as well, often as a result of escapes from enclosed shooting facilities that offer “wild boar hunts.”

To try and control this, from a health and safety perspective in NYS, legislation was passed in October to immediately prohibit importation, breeding or introduction to the wild of any Eurasian boars. The law also prohibits possession, sale, transport or marketing of live Eurasian boars, as of Sept. 1, 2015.

The new law was an essential step in the state’s efforts to prevent Eurasian boars from becoming established in the wild.

Since 2000, there have been small numbers of Eurasian boars reported, in several counties across the state, and breeding in the wild has been confirmed in at least six counties, in recent years.

The DEC is working closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove any Eurasian boars that are reported in New York, and, to date, more than 150 animals have been captured and destroyed. However, eradication is expensive, time-consuming and requires a great deal of manpower.

Eurasian boars often join together to form a ‘sounder’, the name for a group of pigs sometimes numbering 20 or more individuals. Time has shown that simply shooting individual boars, as opportunities arise in the wild, is ineffective as an eradication method, as this often causes the remaining animals to disperse and be more difficult to remove. NYSDEC also recently announced a proposal for new regulations, that would prohibit hunting and trapping of free-ranging Eurasian boars in New York.

The proposal is designed to ensure maximum effectiveness of DEC’s statewide eradication efforts. Public comments on the proposed regulations will be accepted until Jan. 25, 2014.

The proposed regulations provide exceptions for state and federal wildlife agencies, law enforcement agencies and others who are authorized by DEC to take Eurasian boar, to alleviate nuisance, property damage or threats to public health or welfare.

Since it is sometimes difficult to distinguish a domestic pig, pot belly pig or Eurasian boar, based solely on a description, DEC is requesting sportsmen to report any and all feral swine observed, during their hunting experience. Include the number of animals seen, whether any of them were piglets, the date and the exact location. Photographs of feral swine are greatly appreciated.

Send your observations to your local DEC regional office or email to and include “Feral Swine” in the subject line.

Outdoor calendar

Dec. 25: Merry Christmas!

Jan. 4: Erie County Trappers Association Fur Handling Seminar, Collins Conservation Club, 2633 Conger Road., 9 a.m.-1p.m., free. For more information, call 337-2556.

Jan.11: Fundraiser for Ray Markiewicz who is fighting leukemia, Eden Legion Post No. 880, 1-6 p.m. For more information, call Jim Bailey at 649-9714.

Send information for the outdoor calendar, 10 days in advance, to


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