Outdoor sports see rise in participation

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HUMBOLDT COUNTY, Calif. (KIEM) – The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in forest closures across the state, but when it came time to reopen, more challenges presented themselves. Six Rivers National Forest Supervisor Ted McArthur described the experience.

“We feel like we have been able to mitigate a lot of the hazards and were able to open up and do a lot of cleaning and signage to help people be able to enjoy and appreciate the national forest, but then the fires broke out,” McArthur said.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Public Information Officer Peter Tira detailed the historic forest closures.

“For the first time in history, the U.S. Forest Service closed down pretty much all the forests in California for a period. And so that certainly impacted folks’ ability to go fishing and go hunting,” Tira said. “It happened in the north state during a lot of deer seasons.”

Despite limitations related to the pandemic, the forest saw a rise in activity.

“Especially before the fires started, our visitation was really up, so we had a lot more visitors out in the national forest than we’ve had in past years,” McArthur said.

The rise in activity was not limited to the Six Rivers National Forest. As Californians ventured outdoors, they picked up new hobbies. Fishing license sales haven’t been this high since 2001.

“With limited recreation options available to us all, folks sure are rediscovering the outdoors,” Tira said.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife moved services online to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines. This actually helped contribute to the largest increase in hunting license sales in decades.

“All that money generated from license sales and report cards, it all goes back into the resource,” Tira said. “It all goes back into scientific studies and habitat acquisition and the animals themselves and the wildlife. So you know hunters and anglers give back more than they take.”

While both organizations see a surge in interest, preparation for the future is already underway.