A new member of the DEM to increase and diversify the hunting population

Dan Lehman learned to love hunting and the outdoors as a child with his father in California. Now he travels across the country to share that love with the people of Rhode Island.

Lehman, 57, who spent 30 years working for the California Department of Fish and Wildlifewas hired by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to involve more Rhode Islanders in hunting and trapping.

Taking on a new position, Lehman began Aug. 1 as a hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation specialist with DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. With hunter numbers dwindling across the country, the effort says R3 is a national initiative to increase participation, primarily because the fees and taxes hunters pay for equipment, licenses and permits help fund the land conservation and species preservation.

He has a permanent link with hunting

“I grew up hunting and fishing,” Lehman said. “I had a great mentor, my father.”

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Mentoring children will be one of Lehman’s first jobs in Rhode Island. On October 29, the DEM will partner with several others to sponsor its eighth annual Waterfowl and Guided Hunting Youth Training. The event includes a training session on October 2 where participants can shoot at clay targets.

The event is open to young people aged 12 to 15 who have taken a hunter education course. As space is limited, potential participants must complete an application and also submit a piece of writing on the importance of being a leader and role model for young people. Participating hunters must have a Rhode Island hunting license and a Harvest Information Program permit. Applications are due August 25. For more information and to apply, visit www.dem.ri.gov/waterfowl.

“Programs like Youth-Led Hunting create positive hunting experiences for children, while teaching individuals and their families the importance of sustainability, gun safety, conservation and conservation. ‘outdoor ethics,’ Lehman said in a press release announcing the hunt.

Kids aren’t the only people Lehman plans to introduce to hunting. He wants to encourage more women, families, millennials and people of color to get involved. He wants Rhode Island’s hunter population to reflect the state’s population as a whole.

The RI sells fewer hunting licenses

Like other states, Rhode Island has seen a decline in hunting. For example, the state sold 8,800 hunting licenses last year, down from 11,600 in 2000, according to the DEM. The decline in revenue followed the national trend, according to the Wildlife Management Institute and Council for the Advancement of Hunting and Sport Shooting.

In 2016, the groups developed the National Hunting and Sports Shooting Action Plan, which will serve as a guide for Lehman. The plan says “hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts provide 80% of the funding for all wildlife,” but participation in hunting and shooting sports has declined since the 1980s, “resulting in less funding for preservation”.

Lehman sees lack of time as the biggest obstacle to attracting and keeping people involved in the hunt. “We compete with computers and phones,” he said. Travel sports are also time-consuming for children and families, he noted. Attendance increased during the COVID pandemic, perhaps because people had more time and also because they worried about having food on their tables, Lehman says.

Telecommuting until September

Lehman hasn’t moved to Rhode Island yet but wakes up at 4:30 a.m. PT to start his day. He contacted people and groups to come up with a plan to get more people involved in outdoor activities here.

“I need input from everyone, from every citizen of Rhode Island, to make this work,” he said. “That’s not my plan. That’s Rhode Island’s plan.”

Lehman will fly to Rhode Island next month. His wife and one of his three adult children will follow in the car. He will arrive in time to work with the young people in October training and on the supervised hunt.

At the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Lehman retired as deputy chief, after working as a game warden and also leading hunter education programs. Teaching was a great job, he said, because “it was the first time I was thanked all the time.”

[email protected]

(401) 277-7614

On Twitter: @jgregoryperry

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