U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe today announced the agency will expand hunting and fishing opportunities on 13 refuges throughout the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System.
In the press release, Ashe points out that hunting and fishing have contributed a great deal to economic activity across the U.S. What Ashe failed to mention is that according to USFWS’s report, our National Wildlife Refuge System alone creates $2 BILLION for the economy. And surprise, surprise… non-consumptive use of the refuge system (non-hunting activities) is the more powerful economic engine.
“Recreational activities such as birding, hiking and picnicking account for nearly 75% of total expenditures at wildlife refuges across the country,” the report says, “while fishing and hunting account for about 28% of expenditures.”
Presently, there are approximately 305 million people in our nation and only 6% of them (37 million people) buy hunting licenses; the vast majority of people do not hunt. Nearly 72 million (9% of the nation’s population) engage in wildlife-watching activities nationwide.
The wildlife in this country is owned by its citizens. This legal concept implies that we all share equal, undivided interests in our wild animals. The government holds wildlife in trust for our benefit and is empowered to manage it for the public good.
So is an expansion of hunting opportunities on public lands set aside for the protection of wildlife, fish, and plants meant to benefit the public good? Moreover, aren’t refuges are intended to be safe havens for wildlife?
Wildlife Recreation Expenditures – Here Are The Numbers
The final U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation has detailed information on the number of U.S. residents 16 years of age and older who fished, hunted or wildlife watched (fed, observed, or photographed wildlife) in 2011. It also provides information on their expenditures for trips, equipment, and other items. Wildlife-related outdoor recreation increased dramatically from 2006 to 2011. The national details are shown in the final report. A 2011 National Survey Overview Summary is also available.