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With countless places to roam and enjoy the great outdoors, Americans are taking advantage of these opportunities, and as they go, spending significant dollars, too. New economic reports by Southwick Associates reveal that more than 53 million Americans consider themselves sportsmen, spending over $93.5 billion in 2016 on gear, licenses, travel, clothing, gas and more. 

South Park, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

A series of reports released yesterday by the American Sportfishing Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation show that expenditures made in 2016 for hunting, target shooting and sportfishing gear and services supported 1.6 million jobs and provided $72 billion in salaries and wages. These monies also generated nearly $20 billion in local, state and federal taxes. Much of this tax revenue benefits vital conservation and educational programs that improve our outdoor areas for all who enjoy them and make hunting and shooting safer activities.

“If hunting, fishing and target shooting were a corporation, it would rank #25 on the Fortune 500, ahead of Microsoft,” says Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates. “While time spent outside may come across as something to do after the real work day is done, in reality hunting, fishing and target shooting is a critical industry, generating jobs and income for thousands of communities across the country.”

Key highlights of the reports include:



  • Each year, 35.8 million people 16 years and older take to America’s waters to fish.
  • More than 28 million people over 16 years old took to our nation’s forests and gun ranges to hunt and target shoot in 2016.
  • The number of people who participate in sportfishing, hunting and target shooting represents 16.5 percent of the total U.S. population.
  • When factoring in multiplier effects, spending by sportsmen created economic activity in excess of $220 billion.
  • Hunting, fishing and shooting adds $119 billion of overall value to our nation’s gross domestic product and generates $17.6 billion in federal taxes and $12.2 billion in state and local taxes.

Four separate reports are available: sportfishing from the American Sportfishing Association, hunting and target shooting from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (please register as a guest when asked), plus a report for all activities combined from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

Southwick Associates is a market research and economics firm specializing in the hunting, shooting, sportfishing, and outdoor recreation markets. Celebrating 28 years in business, Southwick Associates has a strong reputation for delivering comprehensive insights and statistics to strategic decision making across the entire outdoor industry. Aside from custom market and economic information, Southwick Associates provides custom and syndicated research including customer-driven new product development, outdoor media consumption insights, and equipment purchase tracking studies. Visit www.southwickassociates.com for more information.

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The South Platte at Elevenmile Canyon, Colorado. Photo by Rich Holland

The South Platte at Elevenmile Canyon, Colorado. Photo by Rich Holland

Former Interior Secretary Salazar, NWF CEO and affiliates say keep public lands public

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar joined Collin O’Mara, the National Wildlife Federation’s CEO and president, and business and conservation leaders Thursday to speak out for conserving America’s public lands and against attempts to sell or get rid of the lands that sustain fish and wildlife populations as well as hunting, fishing and the country’s multi-billion-dollar outdoor recreation industry.

The National Wildlife Federation’s 49 state affiliates have unanimously approved a resolution that calls for keeping public lands in public hands and opposes large-scale exchanges, sales or giveaways of federally managed lands. This week, 41 of the state affiliates sent a letter to the Republican National Committee asking that it rescind a resolution adopted this year that urges Congress to turn over public lands to the Western states that want them.

The affiliates noted that public lands help grow America’s economy by supporting an outdoor recreation industry that generates $646 billion in economic benefit annually and supports 6.1 million jobs. The organizations stressed that wise stewardship of the lands that belong to all Americans is a long tradition that cuts across political and social lines.

Shadow Mountain Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Shadow Mountain Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

“Despite the economic importance of federal lands to wildlife and people, they remain under constant threat. In recent years, several state legislative proposals have called on the federal government to transfer ownership of public lands to the states, which in turn would pass them off to private interests in many instances,” the organizations wrote.

The Interior Department’s latest annual economic report shows the agency’s programs and activities generated $360 billion in benefits and supported more than 2 million jobs nationwide in fiscal 2013. Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar started preparing the reports in 2009 to highlight the department’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

“The nation’s public lands are the birthright and priceless heritage of all Americans. Our policymakers and elected leaders should be working to preserve and enhance these multiple use economic engines,” said Salazar, who served as Interior secretary from 2009 to 2013.

The National Wildlife Federation is on the front lines of conserving fish and wildlife and the places where they live, and in large part those places are public lands, O’Mara said.

“The National Wildlife Federation, our 49 state affiliates, and four million members and supporters strongly support keeping our public lands in public hands. As a diverse federation of hunters, anglers, hikers, wildlife watchers, and nature lovers, we are united in our passion for protecting public lands, which provide amazing outdoor experiences for all Americans, landscapes for deer, elk, pronghorn, and bison herds to migrate, forests for grizzlies, bighorn sheep and lynx, and critical habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 1,000 species of fish and 250 reptile and amphibian species. For more than a century, protecting land for the benefit all outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife has been an essential element of the American experience—and we must pass on this legacy to future generations,” O’Mara said.

The wildlife federations have worked through the years to conserve the public lands necessary for fish and wildlife and hunting and fishing and will continue to do, said David Chadwick, Montana Wildlife Federation executive director.

“Every few decades this idea of selling off public land pops up, and public opinion always beats it back. Meanwhile, the challenges facing our national forests and other public lands have continued to grow,” Chadwick added. “We need our elected officials to quit wasting time on these speculative, ideological proposals and instead take action on the common-sense, collaborative efforts under way all over the country to improve land management.”

Hanging Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Hanging Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Surveys and polls show overwhelming support for public lands among voters in the West, the target of many of the drives to dispose of public land. That support extends beyond the region to other parts of the country where hunters, anglers and other wildlife enthusiasts enjoy the backcountry, rivers and forests, said Tim Gestwicki, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation CEO.

“Sportsmen and women and wildlife watchers in the Southeast value our public lands, from the Appalachians to the coast. We also value the Western lands and their abundant wildlife, big open spaces and great hunting and fishing. We stand with our fellow sportsmen and women in defending public lands and protecting the special places that offer some of the best of what this country is about,” Gestwicki said.

“Sportsmen are on the front line in this effort to prevent the transfer of federal public lands. These are the very lands where we hunt and fish, and where we pass on those traditions to our kids. The idea that somehow our federal public lands are dispensable is an affront to all hunters and anglers, and we are determined to protect these lands for ourselves and for future generations,” said Garrett VeneKlasen, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

America’s national parks, monuments and rugged landscapes are not only a draw for people in this country, but across the world, said Peter Metcalf, CEO and president of Black Diamond, Inc., a leading manufacturer of outdoor sports equipment and clothing.

“No other country in the world has the public land infrastructure that we have. There’s such a richness of landscape and wildlife. Our public lands and outdoor recreation and lifestyles are coveted by people around the world and are a draw for communities and employers competing for new businesses and workers,” Metcalf said. “Black Diamond’s brand is synonymous with these iconic landscapes that capture the imagination of people all over the world. In addition they are a source of inspiration for our designers, engineers and marketing people.”

Additional Resources: `Valuing our Public Lands: Safeguarding our Economy and Way of Life,’

National Wildlife Federation affiliates’ resolution on transfer of public lands.

NWF affiliates’ letter on transfer, sale of public lands.

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When the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently reported the number of hunters grew by nine percent since 2006 and the number of anglers grew by 11 percent in that same time frame, sportsmen and the sporting industry were thrilled. The numbers, which are preliminary results released as the initial look into the USFWS’s 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, reversed what had been dropping participation levels in fishing over the past 10 years and indicated the first jump in hunter numbers in more than two decades. But what were the reasons for the turnaround?

Mark Fisher of WileyX Sunglasses with a brown trout from the South Platte River in Colorado. Photo: Matt Vincent

Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, which is a leading research and data analysis firm focused on the sportfishing and hunting industries, says the evidence points to several key factors.

“The slow economy has certainly had an impact”, says Southwick. “When the economy took a hit, a lot of people went back to enjoying more traditional activities that were also less costly than other options. Fishing license sales and tackle sales data all back that up.”

In addition to simple economics, on-going efforts to recruit new anglers are paying off. Southwick points to programs such as the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing National Campaign, which has been instrumental in introducing the sport to thousands of new anglers. Demographic shifts are also having an impact.

“Initial feedback indicates more baby boomers may be taking to the water”, says Southwick. The company and the USFWS will be looking at additional data in the coming months to identify other potential trends among youth and other segments of the angling community.

“We’ll be looking closely for shifts in youth and female participation. By the end of the year, we’ll know more”, says Southwick.

John Gale of the National Wildlife Federation with two cock pheasants from Northeastern Colorado. Photo: Lew Carpenter

On the hunting side, the growth in participation is due to the same factors where the economy and recruitment programs are concerned.

“This is the first measured large increase in the number of hunters in years”, says Southwick. “Conservation and firearms industry organizations have been particularly effective at communicating the benefits of hunting.”

Organizations such as the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance all have programs geared toward growing youth and overall participation and have even teamed up to ease age restrictions that deterred many young people from participating in hunting. Additionally, expanded hunting opportunities such as allowing the use of crossbows in a number of states has made hunting more attractive to many new and returning hunters.

“Probably one of the most significant changes has been an apparent cultural shift regarding the acceptance and use of firearms”, says Southwick. Whether hunting or target shooting, many younger adults in their twenties and early thirties, are taking to shooting sports. Firearms sales have been strong for four years.  Whether this is attributable to returning soldiers with a newly found appreciation of the shooting sports or to adults who want to get outside after spending too much of their youth indoors, we need to learn more about the reasons behind the increase”,  says Southwick.

Southwick says there will be more details to come as his team reviews the data to identify more trends behind the growth in hunting and fishing and offers organizations the insight to keep these trends headed in a positive direction.

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