Hunting for public value?
Last month a group of about 30 Extension professionals from around the country participated in a train-the-trainer course for "Building Extension's Public Value." One of the participants, Jonathan Ferris of Purdue Extension, shared his ideas for a public value message for Purdue Extension's Venison Workshop. The program teaches participating hunters proper techniques for field dressing deer and safe methods for storing and preserving venison. Educators also update participants about chronic wasting disease in Indiana.
Regarding the evaluation methodology for the venison program, Jonathan reports: "For years, we only asked questions like 'did you pick up some butchering tips,' or 'did you learn something about food safety,' etc. Last year, however, we decided that since we have many return attendees, we would begin asking them if they 1) hunted or fished more as a result of attending our program (we also do fish programs), and 2) do they keep or bring home more fish and game as a result of our programs."
With affirmative responses to those evaluation questions, Jonathan and his colleagues argue that the hunter/fisherman programs create public value by generating hunting and fishing license fees for the state (provided that the program participants hunt and fish in concordance with state regulations). Moreover, wild game and fish are low in saturated fats and sodium, and are generally part of a healthy diet. Sportsmen and women who bring home more wild game and fish and incorporate it into their diets may see improvements in health. When these health improvements lead to lower public health costs, we can see that the Extension programs have generated public value.
Additionally, if the venison team can produce evidence that program participants identify and report animals that show signs of chronic wasting disease, they may be able to make a "natural resource protection" argument, as well.
Do you have hunting and fishing programs in your state? Have you tried to make a case for public funding for such programs? How do you explain the programs' public value?