U.S. Wildlife Recreation Spending Matches All Other Fun

ROANOKE, Virginia, June 20, 2007 (ENS) - Americans spent $120 billion on hunting, fishing and watching wildlife in 2006 - an amount roughly equal to Americans' total spending at all spectator sports, casinos, motion pictures, golf courses and country clubs, amusement parks and arcades combined.

The figures come from survey data collected once every five years and released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"This very important survey shows in real economic and participatory terms the impact that wildlife has on the nation's economy," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall at the Outdoor Writer Association of America's annual conference in Roanoke.

Birders on horseback at the Spring Wings Bird Festival in Fallon, Nevada, May 2007.
Photo courtesy Spring Wings
"But simply talking about dollars and cents doesn't fully capture the importance of wildlife to our nation," he said. "Wildlife related recreation rejuvenates our spirit and gets us outside pursuing healthy activities."

The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation has been conducted every five years since 1955 and is one of the nation's most important wildlife recreation databases.

The survey is conducted at the request of state fish and wildlife agencies and is funded by grants from the Multistate Conservation Grant Program.

"This expenditure of $120 billion highlights the benefits of these activities on national and state economies," said survey economist Jerry Leonard.

"It is roughly equivalent to one out of every $100 of goods and services produced in our economy. And much of this activity occurs in places which rely significantly on wildlife-related recreation expenditures for their economic well being," Leonard said.

In 2006, more than 87 million Americans, or 38 percent of the United States' population age 16 and older hunted, fished or observed wildlife.

The 71 million wildlife watchers spent the largest percentage of the total - $44.7 billion.

Since 1996 there has been an increase in the spending of people who watch wildlife and take photographs, the survey found. Wildlife watchers' spending increased 19 percent, from $37.5 billion in 1996, $43.7 billion in 2001 to $44.7 billion last year.

A striped bass is the reward for this Chesapeake Bay fisherman. Photo by Jim Brinceman, courtesy Maryland DNR.

The next biggest spenders in 2006 were the 30 million people who fished. They spent a total of $40.6 billion.

The 12.5 million hunters spent $23 billion.

Participation in both angling and hunting declined from 1996 to 2006.

In 1996, 35.2 million anglers fished compared to 30.0 million in 2006, representing a 15 percent decline in participation and spending over the 10 year span.

"Participation levels in 2006 were likely reduced due to several factors - higher gas prices, hurricanes, the increasing age of baby boomers, and continuing urbanization," said Leonard.

For hunting, there was a 10 percent decline in participation from 1996 to 2006, accompanied by a 14 percent decline in spending. While overall spending was down, expenditures on hunting equipment such as rifles and ammunition were up three percent since 2001.

The survey is available online at: http://library.fws.gov/nat_survey2006.pdf

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.