Richmond Times-Dispatch

DWR serves up partnershi­ps with Blanchard’s Coffee, other artisans

- BY KEN PERROTTE Reach Ken Perrotteat Outdoors@FreeLanceS­tar.com.

Virginia’s Department of Wildlife Resources is looking to expand its collaborat­ive partnershi­ps with artisans and craftsmen as part of a broader conservati­on initiative aimed at generating resources to expand outdoors participat­ion and protect wild places. Tom Wilcox, DWR’s director of engagement, explained the effort is part of a broader “The Outdoors are Better Together” campaign destined for full launch in 2021.

The department has operated an e-commerce page for several years, usually selling magazines, calendars and various products branded with something like the department­al logo. Future efforts, though, are expected to include a greater local flavor by establishi­ng business partnershi­ps with Virginia “makers.”

“These conservati­on collaborat­ors are true artisans like knifemaker­s, artists, leather creators, embroidere­rs, and so much more. They are storytelle­rs of their desire to keep our wild places wild, to sustain our natural resources for the next generation, and to be stewards of the outdoors,” Wilcox said, noting the collaborat­ors include hunters, anglers, hikers and wildlife viewers. He called such individual­s “tribal by nature.”

Initial partnershi­ps include, among others, Join or Die, a knifemakin­g company, and Tamarack Leather & Axe, which specialize­s in handmade leather products. Join or Die makes a Fieldmate knife with “Virginia Wildlife” stamped on the blade. The knife also incorporat­es a spent .22LR shell as part of the handle. Wilcox said net revenues from sales of Join or Die knives go to the Virginia Wildlife Grant program. Revenues from the annual— though cancelled this year— One-Shot Turkey Hunt also benefit the grant program. Since its inception, the grant program has raised more than $310,000 to get kids outdoors.

The department has a merchandis­ing team, with a three-person nucleus. The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted business as traditiona­l supply chains were disrupted.

“Our team had to think and act differentl­y. Supply chains from local makers operate much differentl­y from a global supplier,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox explained that DWR buys a quantity of products from the local tradespers­on or artisan and then markets it and sells it via the site. “We have a business-to-business agreement, in terms of quantity and price of the purchases,” he said.

One objective is to help DWR reach out to a broad community— new demographi­cs—of potential outdoor enthusiast­s.

“The new demographi­c relates to diversifyi­ng our customer base,” Wilcox said. “Our developing strategic plan will include diversity, equity and inclusion components, not just for employees but also constituen­ts. There will be a big turnaround in

OPINION

our external focus.”

Expanding the community of local “makers” is a priority. Wilcox said he finds such people are creative, industriou­s and communityo­riented — meaning the broader community in which they live. Wilcox said he enjoys meeting potential partners to learn more about their personal stories and what it is that drives their creative energies.

“Local makers are unique, very innovative in the way they do business. They often make you think of the world a little differentl­y,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox said a new collaborat­ion launched Wednesday with Blanchard’s Coffee in Richmond.

“Many people may wonder why we’re partnering with a coffee company,” he said. I answered that question for him noting that most hunters I know often bring an insulated thermos or mug of hot coffee into the deer or duck blind with them every frosty morning. Coffee and hunters go together like shotshells and shotguns.

“We bought amug and are pairing it upwith the coffee in terms of sales,” Wilcox said. “All proceeds will go to a program called Beyond Boundaries, which connects kids with disabiliti­es to the outdoors. It’s a cause marketing effort with 100% of the revenues going to the program.”

Wilcox encourages artisans who fit in just about every niche to consider collaborat­ing with DWR.

“Do you fit that local maker profile with a shared passion of the outdoors? Are you giving back to your community to inspire that connection to nature or just to make others

better?” he asked. If so, go to VirginiaWi­ldlife.gov/partnershi­ps to get the conversati­on started.

To see the current lineup of partnered products, check out license. gooutdoors­virginia.com/Shop/ Inventory.

As might be predicted, some were expressing extreme displeasur­e on social media about the access fee requiremen­t that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2021 on all facilities, including boating access sites, managed by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

For years, many considered these DWR boat ramps as “public,” meaning free. But they were never free. License and registrati­on fees collected by the department always paid for their purchase and maintenanc­e.

Now, as the saying goes, the playing field is leveling.

Anyone launching any type of watercraft at a DWR-managed access point must have a valid Virginia hunting, trapping, or fishing permit, a Restore the Wild membership, an access permit, or current certificat­e of boat registrati­on issued by DWR. This does not apply to anyone under 17 years old or passengers with a permitted operator. The operator must have a permit.

For a more detailed overview, see dwr.virginia.gov/boating/ access-faq.

The agency makes it easy to obtain a permit via its online licensing portal and its free app. Those addresses are: gooutdoors­virginia.com and dwr.virginia.gov/app/.

 ?? JOE MAHONEY/TIMES-DISPATCH ?? The Forest Hill Avenue location of Blanchard’s Coffee is seen during its adjustment to the COVID-19 pandemic. Virginia’s Department of Wildlife Resources announcedW­ednesday it has become a partnerwit­h Blanchard’s Coffee, with all proceeds going to Beyond Boundaries, a programtha­t connects kidswith disabiliti­es to the outdoors.
JOE MAHONEY/TIMES-DISPATCH The Forest Hill Avenue location of Blanchard’s Coffee is seen during its adjustment to the COVID-19 pandemic. Virginia’s Department of Wildlife Resources announcedW­ednesday it has become a partnerwit­h Blanchard’s Coffee, with all proceeds going to Beyond Boundaries, a programtha­t connects kidswith disabiliti­es to the outdoors.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA