Wildlife-related recreation on the rise

For years, many of us have been hearing folks say that not as many people are enjoying traditional outdoors activities as they did in the past.

A new survey seems to contradict that, and points out that “wildlife-related outdoor recreation has increased dramatically from 2006 to 2011.”

What’s more: Those wildlife enthusiasts, whether hunters or anglers or wildlife-watchers, pump billions of dollars into the U.S. economy.

Earlier this week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its final report of the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Related Recreation. A short fact sheet was sent to members of the media. The entire report can be viewed here.

Among the highlights, according to the USFWS press release:
- More than 90 million U.S. residents age 16 and older participated in some form of wildlife-related recreation in 2011. That number is a 3 percent increase over 2006. Interestingly, most of the increase was attributed to a spike in the number of people who fished or hunted.
- Those who got out and enjoyed wildlife spent $144.7 billion on those activities in 2011. The report points out that that money equates to 1 percent of the gross domestic product of the U.S.
- The number of “sportspersons” — hunters and anglers — rose from 33.9 million in 2006 to 37.4 million in 2011. Of those, 33.1 million fished and 13.7 million hunted. An impressive 71.8 million people participated in at least one type of wildlife-watching.

Interestingly, while many of us may think of hunting and fishing as activities mainly enjoyed by folks who live in rural environments, that’s not actually the case.

The survey points out that 94 percent of the U.S. population (just counting people age 16 and older) live in metropolitan areas, which are defined as having populations of 50,000 or more. According to the survey, 89 percent of all anglers and 80 percent of all hunters live in those metropolitan areas.

Another interesting point: Hunters and anglers — participants in so-called “consumptive” recreation, pump more money, per person, into the economy than wildlife-watchers, or “non-consumptive” users.

Hunters, for example, spent an average of $2,465 per person on trips, equipment and other items in 2011.

Anglers spent $1,262 per person on trips, equipment and other items.

Wildlife-watchers spent $981 per person; a key factor to consider when comparing the numbers: just 38 percent of wildlife-watchers traveled a mile or more from their homes to do that critter-watching.

State park passes on sale

Now that you’re ready to head outdoors with those millions of other wildlife-watchers, you may want to check out one of Maine’s many state parks.

Lucky for you, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has a great deal for you, just in time for last-minute gift-buyers.

The department’s Division of Maine Parks and Public Lands is selling state park passes, which can be purchased online and given to your favorite outdoor-lover this holiday season.

According to a department press release, individual season passes cost $35 and allow only the holder to access to the state’s 48 state parks and historical sites. A $70 vehicle pass is also on sale; that pass allows entrance to all occupants of a one-ton or 17-passenger vehicle.

“Maine park passes are a gift that gives all year, and they offer lots of opportunities for fun and outdoor adventure in some of Maine’s most beautiful places,” Will Harris, director of the Division of Maine Parks and Public Lands, said in the release.

The passes can be ordered at maine.gov/doc/parks. Passes will be mailed within seven business days.

The department says more than 2.4 million people visited state parks and historical sites in 2012. Visitors set a record by buying 10,763 vehicle passes and 1,354 individual passes this year.

And if you’re interested in putting your 2013 season pass to use right off the bat, four parks are holding First Day Hikes on New Year’s Day.

  • Aroostook State Park in Presque Isle, 9-10:30 a.m.
  • Popham Beach State Park, Phippsburg, 9:30-10:30 a.m.
  • Sebago Lake State Park, 10:30 a.m.
  • Wolfe’s Neck State Park, Freeport, 2-3 p.m.
John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.