The good news from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is obvious: Preliminary data from the 2011 survey of hunting and fishing says hunting participation was up 9 percent from the last survey in 2006 while hunting expenditures were up by 30 percent over the same five years.
For that same period, angling participation was up 11 percent while expenditures were down that same amount compared with 2006.
There is no question conservation, sportsmen’s groups and the outdoors-related industry applaud the news, knowing more hunters, anglers, bird watchers, etc., mean more support (fiscal and otherwise) for their particular causes.
The more perplexing questions are: Why has there been an increase? And, who gets credit for that increase?
The report, titled the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Recreation, is based on data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau from more than 48,000 households.
This survey’s results indicate a turnabout from several decades of declining participation. According to the survey, 90 million people (38 percent of all Americans 16 and older) participated in some sort of wildlife-related recreation last year and forked over some $145 billion while doing so.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar credits President Barack Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative as one reason more people are getting out and active.
“Seeing more people hunting, fishing and getting outdoors is great news for America’s economy and conservation heritage,” Salazar said while announcing the survey results. “Outdoor recreation and tourism are huge economic engines for local communities and the country, so it is vital that we continue to support policies and investments that help Americans get outside, learn to fish, or go hunting.
“That is why,” Salazar added, “through President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, we have been focused on helping Americans rediscover the joys of casting a line, passing along family hunting traditions and protecting the places they love.”
While we appreciate President Obama’s support, outside the Beltway there are other reasons why participation in wildlife-related recreation is on the upswing.
The National Wild Turkey Federation says its Families Afield Initiative, which includes hunter education as well as pushing legislative efforts opening wildlife recreation to women, youths and disabled persons, has helped recruit 782,000 new young hunters.
Likewise, similar programs on the state and local level, including turkey and big-game hunts for youths, women and disabled persons, sponsored by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the NWTF, Colorado Mule Deer Association and numerous others, have introduced an entire new population of hunters to an awareness of the role hunting plays in our society and culture.
Similarly, the Parks and Wildlife’s Fishing is Fun grant program, funded through the sale of fishing licenses and the federal Sport Fish Restoration Program, partnered with such groups as Trout Unlimited and Colorado Sportsmen Wildlife Fund to bring new anglers into the fold and improve fishing access and fish habitat.
Of that $145 billion spent on wildlife-related recreation, about $34 billion came from hunters and $42 billion was spent on fishing. As recent surveys have shown, the lion’s share, $55 billion, came from wildlife viewing.
These activities, ranging from exotic birding trips to watching moose on Grand Mesa, attracted nearly 71.8 million people last year, thanks to interest fostered by such groups as the National Audubon Society and other conservation groups.
So the credit really goes to every hunter, angler, birder and moose watcher who takes the time to share their love of wildlife with someone who otherwise might not have the opportunity.