By Zach Cockrum,
Last week sportsmen received some great news from the Fish and Wildlife Service. A survey showed that 37 million Americans hunted and fished last year, 10% more than in 2006, reversing a 20 year trend of a decline in the number of hunters and anglers.
Hunters and anglers also spent an average of $2,400 on equipment, trips, licenses, and other expenses related to their hobby. This amounted to more than $90 billion last year, a large chunk of the $646 billion outdoor recreation economy.
Take a moment to let that soak in: $90 billion dollars. It’s not pocket change…
While groups like Trout Unlimited played their part in that reversal, it is also due, in part, to the billions of dollars of conservation investments made by our federal government. The $23 billion per year spent on conservation by the federal government more than pays for itself by generating $107 billion in tax revenue through outdoor recreation.
So what we have here is an investment that’s working exactly as it should.
Modest federal conservation spending is leveraged by local groups like TU, creating more and better fishing opportunities, encouraging more people to hunt and fish which in turn, supports a huge economic driver – it’s a win-win.
But regardless of the positive news, not everything is sunshine and roses in the conservation world, bringing us to a rather puzzling question: If conservation funding is so successful, why is Congress so eager to slash it?
A proposal in front of the House of Representatives would mean billions less for conservation, including extremely successful programs such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the Fish and Wildlife Service’s fish passage program. Furthermore, failure to act on other important conservation legislation threatens a popular initiative which works with private land owners to provide hunting and fishing access on their property. All of these efforts directly contribute to increased participation in the outdoors by providing easier access and more high quality places to hunt and fish.
At 1.5% of the entire federal budget, conservation didn’t cause our deficit problem, and slashing it won’t solve it. So if you think Congress should protect this important funding area, sign your chapter, council, business, or other conservation organization to this letter from America’s Voice for Conservation, Recreation, and Preservation, and tell your elected officials to support conservation funding or risk contributing to the decline of American hunters and anglers.