Great News for Conservation: More Hunters and Anglers in America!

Great news for Conservation!  The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) just released their preliminary hunting and fishing numbers, showing that over the past 5 years there are 9% more hunters and 11% more anglers throughout the nation. These increases are proof that our sportsmen recruitment and access efforts are working! The Survey also reports that over 37 million hunters and anglers spent $90 billion alone in recreational expenditures last year nationwide. That number doesn’t account for additional stimulus and creation of fishing and hunting related jobs or other secondary boosts to local and national economies.  Hunting and fishing provide great value during tough economic times and it’s great news for conservation that our industry is both sustainable and non-exportable.

Fishing licence compliance check.
Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge Law Enforcement officer checks for compliance of fishing license. Photo provided by USFWS.

The uptick in numbers is a welcome addition to agencies facing more and more challenges. Hunting and fishing license fees make up the vast majority of state fish and wildlife agency budgets which fund the folks in charge of maintaining fish and wildlife as a public trust for all of us. In addition to license funds  being dedicated to the management of fish and wildlife, sportsmen and women have had the foresight to tax themselves to promote conservation through the purchase of the gear they use. This comes in the form of excise taxes on guns, ammunition, bows and arrows, and fishing equipment.

One of NWF’s first achievements was the passage of the Wildlife Restoration Act in 1937, commonly referred to as the Pittman-Robertson Act. This Act established the first excise taxes to be collected into the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Fund and distributed to states based on population and acreage.  Since its inception, the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Fund has provided more than $14 billion to support fish and wildlife restoration and management. Not only does the purchase of equipment help stimulate our economy, it also helps pay for conservation and restoration efforts to insure our traditions continue.

Another ascending number to note in the Survey is the number of participants in wildlife watching.  Last year this group of 72 million Americans contributed $55 billion to our nation’s economy. Yes, this population includes some hunters and anglers, but it is an independently growing recreational activity.  While all three categories are based on sustainable habitats, one big difference between the hunting/angling and wildlife-watching communities is wildlife-watchers have not yet taxed their gear to contribute to conservation and don’t pay license fees to watch wildlife.  Attempts have been made to place excise taxes similar to those on guns and ammunition to binoculars, cameras, backpacks, etc.- but to no avail. I have high hopes in the American people that these attempts are not over.

For now, let us celebrate this good news, revel in it, and plot and scheme for the future!

Are you a wildlife watcher?