Hunting and fishing are great sports because of the memories that are made. But the economic impact of those ventures on local communities can't be overlooked, either.

That was evident when I read a recent story from The Salina Journal, one of our sister papers in Kansas, about the efforts of Pheasants Forever and 24/7 Travel Stores to raise more than $26,000 for kids' habitat conservation programs.

Money was raised throughout November, as 24/7 Travel Stores offered customers the opportunity to make a donation to Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever when checking out. They also sold PF/QF merchandise in-store, with a portion of each sale going to the organization. The $26,084.18 raised by the fundraiser, in its second year, was an 8% increase over the previous year, which saw more than $24,000 raised for wildlife habitat conservation and hunter recruitment in Kansas.

Stores in McPherson, Maple Hill, Abilene and WaKeeney all exceeded $3,000 in donations, with McPherson topping out at $4,044.79. The funds that were raised this year will provide financial support toward Pheasants Forever's goal of getting 120,000 Kansas kids participating in its Education and Outreach program by 2023, according to the story.

It's always good to see businesses willing to partner with the community to help make the outdoors a better place for humans and animals alike. The truth is, however, that those companies are receiving just as much back, if not more, from the actions of hunters and anglers who travel long distances and spend lots of money lodging and dining in small communities.

For convenience stores in small, rural towns, that influx of patrons during the hunting season can be vital to sustaining business there.

Mark Augustine, president of 24/7 Travel Stores, said the large number of hunters who stop in every season at their stores made the cause one that was easy to support.

“Pheasant hunting brings a lot of commerce to the state in areas that don’t always get touched during the summer tourist season,” Augustine said in article. “It is awesome the customers want to give back to programs Pheasants Forever supports in Kansas that continue to make Kansas one of the top destinations for pheasant hunters.”

Later in the story, Brandon Wilmoth, regional representative for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever in Kansas, said programs like this one work to bring in vital funding for the organization's habitat mission, as well as for programs that create new hunters.

“For example, we now have three ‘shooting trailers’ here in Kansas that PF and QF chapters, and other organizations, can use to hold youth shooting events," Wilmoth said. "The trailers travel to fairs, schools, festivals, hunter safety classes and other outdoor events. The goal is to expose kids to the shooting sports, which can, in turn, lead to creating new hunters.”

Evergy, formerly Westar Energy, is another company that has done a lot of work to offer hunting and fishing opportunities to young folks and to clean up the environment through its Green Team, a volunteer group made up of current and former employees.

Some of the projects put on by the Topeka-based team include planting trees, building an observation deck from recycled power poles at the Baker Wetlands Education Center near Lawrence and hosting youth hunting and fishing events at the wildlife area around Jeffrey Energy Center near St. Marys.

That commitment to having a private-public partnership in sustaining natural habitat is one the state takes seriously, as well. After all, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Secretary Brad Loveless, a 34-year employee at Westar before joining the public sector as an appointee of Gov. Laura Kelly, is a former leader of the Green Team.

There are plenty of other ways that government and businesses work together, as well.

The Conservation Reserve Program, a federal program that pays farmers not to plant crops on marginal or erodible land and instead use native grasses, offers supreme habitat for upland birds, deer and other species of wildlife. There has also been some private-public partnership when it comes to the conservation of the lesser prairie chicken, and that has turned into another economic boom for small Kansas communities in the form of ecotourism.

Now, the argument can certainly be made that gas stations and coal-fired power plants are probably not the most environmentally friendly businesses in the world, and I would have to agree. To be fair to them, the newspaper industry isn't exactly doing Mother Nature any favors, either. But doing something positive for the environment is a far better choice than doing nothing at all, and I will applaud them for at least making an effort to curtail some of the harmful effects of their byproducts by investing their time and money into projects that restore wildlife habitats and keep the outdoors traditions alive. I'm also a big fan (pun intended) of Evergy's efforts to utilize wind power to further reduce their carbon footprint.

Every little bit helps.


Big news for KBN Youth Series

Kansas BASS Nation youth director Travis Burch had a lot of news to share this week, and was able to kill two birds with one stone.

Burch launched the KBN youth/high school division's new YouTube channel, and with the first video published on the page also announced the program had secured a new sponsorship from KastKing, allowing youth and high school anglers in the program to receive discounted products from the company, with 5% of the money spent going back into the program.

The YouTube channel, KansasYouthBASS, will be used to broadcast the tournament weigh-ins for both youth and high school ranks. It will likely feature other content, as well, about fishing and the outdoors, with the young anglers involved.

As a side note, congratulations to Topekans Tate Herrman, Jim Parsons and Thomas Heinen for earning the top three spots in the Flint Hills Bass Association's yearly standings. Herrman finished first, followed by Parsons and Heinen, who also secured the Non-Boater of the Year award. Tate's got some boys in the KBN youth program who will likely benefit quite a bit from the new KastKing sponsorship.