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From the secretary

A message from Preston D. Cole

portrait image of Preston D. Cole©MIKE GORSKIPreston D. Cole

As we continue to navigate the unprecedented times of COVID-19, Wisconsinites have had to deal with fundamental changes to the way we live our lives.

The ongoing pandemic has impacted the way we teach our children, the way we care for our families and the way we connect with each other. It has rearranged how we work, collaborate and gather.

None of this has been easy, and it’s going to continue to be hard to sacrifice the things we are so used to regularly doing. I am so thankful to those who wear a mask where they can, keep their distance and find safer ways to relax, decompress and de-stress.

During COVID-19, there are two places people can regularly be found: in their own homes or outdoors. We at the DNR have the great privilege of caring for the remarkable opportunities people have in our great state to enjoy the outdoors while staying closer to home.

Since mid-March, we’ve seen more than 6.4 million visitors to our state parks. The vast majority of our campsites are booked, totaling more than 200,000 nights, at sites where visitors have been having fun, making memories and enjoying amazing views since camping reopened in June.

We’ve seen tremendous growth in license sales for fishing and turkey hunting this year as people seek productive solo activities, sometimes for the first time. More than 1.4 million fishing licenses and more than 400,000 turkey licenses already have been purchased, both representing a spike in purchases over the same time last year.

Our partners at the Department of Tourism also have seen incredible growth in people researching how to get outdoors. Some web search topics like trails, hikes and waterfalls have seen percent increases in the triple digits. People are seeking out ways to find their own adventure, to go wild in Wisconsin.

Over the last few months we’ve further understood that our parks and natural resources are truly essential to the way we live our lives — not just for opportunities to get outdoors, but also in supporting the economy.

Outdoor recreation is a $7.8 billion industry here in Wisconsin, which means that time spent outdoors has an impact on local communities, business owners and workers. Whether it’s purchasing supplies for hunting, or safely patronizing a local restaurant for takeout on the way home from a park, you’re supporting livelihoods and jobs.

I know the realities of COVID-19 can be stressful. One of the best ways to deal with that stress while remaining safe is to take time outdoors and appreciate the remarkable natural resources we all have surrounding us across the state.

I look forward to seeing how fall will greet our residents and visitors alike as they make their way to state parks or find a new way to enjoy the outdoors.

I also wish those of you who hunt a bountiful harvest this season. I’m sure many Wisconsinites are looking forward to returning to that great tradition or perhaps even trying it for the first time this year.

Be more than safe. And thanks to all who have found solace in our great outdoors during this time.