Bay Journal

Wildlife-related recreation great for participants, economy

  • By Kathy Reshetiloff on October 01, 2012
Hunters spent $34 billion on trips, equipment, licenses and other related items in 2011. (Carol Weston / U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) The number of anglers has increased 11 percent since the 2006 survey. (Carl Zitsman / U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
) Nearly 71.8 million people 16 years and older fed, photographed and observed wildlife in 2011. (LaVonda Walton /U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

More Americans are fishing, hunting and enjoying wildlife, according to preliminary information from the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. Conducted every five years, the survey found in 2011 that 90 million people — 38 percent of all Americans 16 years and older — participated in wildlife-related recreation in 2011. That means that an average of nearly four out of 10 people participate in some type of wildlife recreation.

More people fishing, hunting and getting outdoors is great news for the U.S. economy and conservation heritage. Outdoor recreation and tourism are huge economic engines for local communities and the country.

Hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers spent $145 billion on gear, trips and other purchases. This equates to 1 percent of gross domestic product; meaning $1 out of every $100 of all goods and services produced in the United States is related to wildlife-related recreation.

The final report of the 2011 national survey will be available in November. But preliminary data already show that Americans love the outdoors and wildlife-related recreation.

Fishing is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in the United States, attracting 33.1 million individuals 16 years and older in 2011. Anglers spent $41.8 billion on trips, equipment, licenses and other items.

Freshwater fishing — excluding the Great Lakes — was the most popular type of fishing with 27.1 million anglers. The number of anglers has increased 11 percent since the 2006 survey.

In 2011, 13.7 million people, or 6 percent of the U.S. population 16 years and older, went hunting. Big game like elk, deer and wild turkey attracted 11.6 million hunters. More than 4.5 million hunters pursued small game that included squirrel, rabbit, quail and pheasant. Migratory birds, such as geese, ducks and doves, attracted 2.6 million hunters.

Hunters spent $34 billion on trips, equipment, licenses and other items in 2011. Overall hunting participation increased 9 percent from 2006 to 2011.

The survey defines wildlife watchers as those who either take a special interest in wildlife around their homes or take a trip for the primary purpose of wildlife watching.

Wildlife watching is a favorite pastime for millions of people in the United States. Nearly 71.8 million people 16 years and older fed, photographed and observed wildlife in 2011. They spent $55 billion on these activities.

Of the 71.8 million people who engaged in wildlife watching in 2011, 22.5 million participated by taking trips away from home and 68.6 million participated around their home.

Observing wildlife and photographing wildlife were the most popular activities around or away from homes.

The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, conducted at the request of the state fish and wildlife agencies, is a partnership with states and national conservation organizations. It quantifies the economic impact of wildlife-based recreation. Federal, state and private organizations use this detailed information to manage wildlife, market products and look for trends.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinates the survey, and the U.S. Census Bureau collects the data using computer-assisted interviews. It is funded by grants from the Multistate Conservation Grant Program authorized by the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs Improvement Act of 2000.

For information about the national survey, go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. Current and previous surveys and data are available for downloading.

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About Kathy Reshetiloff

Kathryn Reshetiloff is with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chesapeake Bay Field Office in Annapolis.

Read more articles by Kathy Reshetiloff

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