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Madison Journal: Give at least $2 to Cherish Wisconsin

POSTED April 29, 2015 11:22 a.m.

There’s a stretch of the Fever River not far from the Hard Scrabble Scientific and Natural Area that holds a special place in the hearts of local residents and visitors from elsewhere who have discovered it.

It’s a place that my wife, Coni, and I also cherish. Here in the Driftless Area where anglers often focus on trout, you can enjoy great smallmouth bass fishing thanks to forward-thinking folks who created the free public access there. Wood ducks and woodcock, eagles overhead and turkeys calling in the distance, add to this special place.

No matter what kind of outdoors enthusiast you are — a hiker or biker, a hunter or angler, a kayaker or birder, a skier or all of the above — Wisconsin provides endless opportunities for each of us to connect with nature in this kind of profound way. These experiences instill in us an appreciation for our state’s woods, wildlife and waters and a commitment to ensuring that the legacy of enjoying our natural areas continues for generations to come.

Last year’s hunting, fishing, sports and conservation patron licenses have just expired and for the next few months, hunters and anglers renewing our licenses have a unique opportunity to help protect the extra special places we most enjoy. When we buy our licenses and renew our boat, ATV or other registrations, we’ll be asked whether we’d like to donate at least $2 to the Cherish Wisconsin Outdoors Fund.

Friends and I have started answering, “Yes, but make it $4.” If you cherish Wisconsin’s outdoors and natural resources, I hope you’ll do the same.

The Cherish Wisconsin Outdoors Fund will help cover costs for critical habitat management, including important waters, throughout the state. The current budget proposal, including a moratorium on Knowles–Nelson Stewardship Fund land purchases, has drawn attention to issues of habitat and access.  Setting land aside so it won’t be developed is the first step in protecting it, but making sure those lands and waters stay healthy requires careful management, including controlled burns, invasive species control, trail maintenance and biodiversity projects.

I’m not surprised that hunters and anglers are a generous bunch. You might say we started the “green movement,” from the green in our camo and greenhead mallards to the greenback dollars we spend in support of our pursuits and pursuit of our sport.  In 2014, the fund’s first year, more than 25,000 license buyers gave to the Cherish Wisconsin Outdoors Fund through DNR’s Automated License Issuance System when they were asked to give $2. These are individuals who are proud of what this state offers, proud of what may be a family tradition of enjoying time together outdoors, and proud to protect what they cherish.

This spring I encourage outdoors enthusiasts of all types to give $2, $4 or more, either by giving to the fund through DNR’s license registration process or by making a donation to the fund at http://CherishWisconsin.org/. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating this great opportunity to permanently protect the unique public lands we all love.

Mark LaBarbera of Hazel Green is founder of the Midwest Outdoor Heritage Education Expo and serves as treasurer of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin.

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