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Published: Tuesday, 9/18/2012

Outdoors-related activities growing in popularity in U.S.

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE OUTDOORS EDITOR

Despite the squeeze that a tough economic climate has placed on our shrinking disposable income, and the intense competition for our recreation time, the outdoors is an increasingly attractive option for many Americans.

A recently released report shows that hunting, fishing, and wildlife-related recreation is on the rise. More than 90 million people, or about 40 percent of all U.S. residents age 16 and older, took part in those outdoors activities in 2011, which is a jump of about 2.6 million participants from the previous study, conducted in 2006.

That spike in activity pushed the monetary clout of outdoors-related pursuits to $145 billion, according to data included in the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation State Overview Report, which was released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The money spent by hunters, anglers, and those engaging in wildlife-related recreation amounts to one percent of the U.S. gross domestic product: translation — one out of every $100 of the goods and services produced here is connected to wildlife-related recreation.

That's a lot of bucks, and a lot of bang, and it comes at a time when such a fiscal injection is keeping a number of outdoors-related businesses afloat.

"Hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching are part of our national heritage, and the trip and equipment-related spending of participants forms significant support for local economies across the country," said Dan Ashe, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

"These survey results are good news for the small businesses and rural communities who depend on wildlife-related tourism, and it shows an encouraging increase in personal investment of citizens in the future of wildlife and wild places."

The largest group identified in the study was the more than 71 million Americans who engage in "wildlife watching." That figure indicated a two percent increase in that outdoors activity since the previous study was conducted.

These individuals take a special interest in wildlife near their homes, according to the report, or travel for the expressed purpose of viewing wildlife, such as the thousands who come from around the country to observe the spring migration of songbirds around the Lake Erie marshes.

The wildlife watchers include people who maintain bird feeders, those who regularly photograph wildlife, and the 22.5 million people the survey found who took trips to view wildlife. The study said wildlife watchers have a huge economic impact, spending around $55 billion on their activities.

The national survey takes place every five years at the request of state fish and wildlife agencies and is intended to measure the significance of wildlife-based recreational activity across the nation. Only preliminary information was included in the recent release, with a final report scheduled for release in November, and the 50 state reports released in December.

The study noted that the number of individuals who hunt or fish has jumped by about 10 percent since 2006. The increase is significant since it reverses a trend of decline in hunting and fishing numbers that had taken place since involvement in those outdoors activities peaked in 1991.

There were 13.7 million people participating in hunting in 2011, an increase of nine percent, and they spent about $34 billion, or an average of about $2,500 per hunter, on trips, equipment, licenses, and other hunting-related goods. Hunting equipment purchases saw a large spike — up 29 percent over the previous study. The hunters averaged about 20 days of hunting during the year, the study said.

The number of Americans taking part in fishing increased by 11 percent since the previous study, up to more than 33 million participants. That group spent $41.8 billion on licenses, trips, equipment, and other fishing-related purchases, averaging around $1,300 per angler.

The hunting and fishing groups also spent additional billions of dollars on membership dues, contributions, leasing and purchasing land, and plantings in hunting areas.

The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation has been conducted every five years since 1955. It has become an essential resource for the federal, state and private organizations and businesses as they determine how to manage wildlife and wildlife areas, and how to market programs and products. The participation and economic impact data is especially valuable as it relates to forecasting trends in the outdoors-related activities and industries.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.



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