The Department of Interior has cited a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report finding 101.6 million people–or 40 percent of the population 16 years and older–participated in hunting, fishing, and wildlife activities last year.
“This report absolutely underscores the need to increase public access to public lands across the United States,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in a press release. “Hunting and fishing are a part of the American heritage. As a kid who grew up hunting and fishing on public lands who later took my own kids out on the same land, I know how important it is to expand access for future generations. Many folks east of the Mississippi River rely on friends with large acreages or pay high rates for hunting and fishing clubs. This makes access to wildlife refuges and other public lands more important.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under the purview of the Department of Interior. The survey, DOI reports, notes increases in wildlife watching and fishing, but some moderate declines in hunting participation nationally. The study also reveals these outdoor activities have contributed $156 billion back into the economy. These studies are conducted roughly every five years. Here’s more from their findings:
The survey, the 13th in a series conducted nearly every five years since 1955, shows that the most substantial increases in participation involve wildlife-watching—observing and photographing wildlife. The report indicates these activities surged 20 percent from 2011 to 2016, from 71.8 million to 86 million participants during that time. Expenditures by wildlife watchers also rose sharply—28 percent—between 2011 and 2016, from $59.1 billion to $75.9 billion. Around-the-home wildlife-watching increased 18 percent from 2011, from 68.6 million in 2011 to 81.1 million participants in 2016. More modest gains were made for away-from-home wildlife watchers: 5 percent increase from 2011 to 2016, from 22.5 million to 23 million participants.
More Americans also went fishing. The report indicates an 8 percent increase in angling participation since 2011, from 33.1 million anglers to 35.8 million in 2016. The greatest increases in participation—10 percent—were seen in the Great Lakes area. Total expenditures by anglers nationwide rose 2 percent from 2011 to 2016, from $45 billion to $46.1 billion.
Hunting participation dropped by about 2 million participants, but still remained strong at 11.5 million hunters. Total expenditures by hunters declined 29 percent from 2011 to 2016, from $36.3 billion to $25.6 billion. However, expenditures for related items such as taxidermy and camping equipment experienced a 27-percent uptick, and hunting trip-related expenses increased 15 percent.
Many outdoor industry leaders also commented on the USFWS’s findings:
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
“No one does more for our wildlife and or wild places than hunters. Any decline in hunting numbers, real or perceived, is of great concern since hunting provides the lion’s share of funding for nationwide conservation work thanks to excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment that garner more than $1.6 annually,” said David Allen, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation president and CEO. “The RMEF remains committed to growing and ensuring the future of our hunting heritage as well as elk, other wildlife and their habitat.”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
“Hunters and anglers form the foundation of wildlife conservation in the United States, consistently generating more funding for habitat and wildlife management than any other source,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan. “Industry, federal, and state fish and wildlife agency initiatives that focus on hunter and angler recruitment, retention and reactivation are crucial to sustaining these conservation dollars and ensuring the next generation of wildlife enthusiasts have the opportunity, access, and awareness to pursue these time-honored American traditions.”
Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports
“I praise Secretary Zinke for his support of hunting and land access. The hunting and shooting sports community is grateful for an Administration that recognizes the economic, recreational, and traditional values of hunting and target shooting,” said John Frampton, President and CEO of the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports. “Although the numbers of hunters have declined, we are optimistic they will rebound as a result of Secretary Zinke’s leadership, state wildlife agencies, non-government organizations, and industries working together. Hunting in this country is not only part of our national heritage, it is an important to our country’s economy, as indicated by the expenditures in the survey.”
Despite lower participation hunting numbers, outdoor industry leaders are optimistic Zinke’s leadership will help reverse course. The Interior Secretary has already championed sportsmen’s rights in his short tenure thus far. He rescinded the ban on lead ammo and tackle after getting sworn into office. Last month, he expanded hunting and fishing opportunities on 10 various national wildlife refuges across the country. Despite resistance from those claiming to be champions of sportsmen’s rights, Zinke has been proving his critics wrong by advancing pro-fishing and pro-hunting policies.
Sportsmen should be optimistic about more access to the outdoors with Secretary Zinke at the helms of the Department of Interior. We will continue to catalogue all developments from Interior here at The Resurgent.