Here’s an outdoor recreation stat worth breaking out at the water cooler. One out of every one hundred dollars of all goods and services produced in the United States in 2011 was due to hunting, fishing, and wildlife-associated recreation. Those numbers come from a preliminary report issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, which estimates that roughly 90 million citizens, or 38 percent of the population age 16 or older, spent an estimated $145 billion on wildlife activities in the U.S. last year. In 2011, hunters spent $34 billion, anglers spent $41.8 billion, and wildlife watchers spent $55 billion.
Birdwatchers should be careful about stepping up to an angler and claiming they’re more important economically. The stats and ranks in the USFWS report differ from those in the Outdoor Industry Association's Outdoor Recreation Economy Report. According to that survey, roughly $23 billion was spent on hunting, roughly $33 billion was spent on wildlife viewing, and roughly $35 billion was spent on fishing. Third parties conducted the economic analysis and surveys used by the Outdoor Industry Association, and used different methods to compile stats for a lot more activities. You can read more about those numbers in "The Top 10 Outdoor Activities Based on Money Spent."
So, don’t treat the USFWS numbers as gospel. A few other things you might want to consider. The numbers are preliminary, with the final report due in November. Children are not included in the totals. And all of these numbers are estimates based on a survey of 48,627 households contacted by the U.S. Census Bureau for interviews. In other words, they are not hard stats compiled over time.
Still, this is the most comprehensive report on wildlife recreation put out by the USFWS, and it is put out just once every five years. So, if any birdwatchers, fishermen, and hunters do want to square off, now is your chance. Here’s a quick breakdown of how people spent their time and money watching, shooting, and hooking animals in 2011.
13.7 million: individuals 16 years old and older went hunting
21: average number of days spent hunting, with 85 percent of people going after big game, like elk, deer, and turkey
$34 billion: spent on trips, equipment, licenses, and other items to support hunting activities
$2,484: average expenditure per hunter
9 percent: increase in hunters from 2006 to 2011
30 percent: increase in money spent on hunting from 2006 to 2011
33.1 million: individuals 16 years old and older who went fishing
17: average number of days spent fishing
$41.8 billion: spent on trips, equipment, licenses, and other items to support fishing activities
$1,261: average expenditure per angler
11 percent: increase in the number of anglers from 2006 to 2011
11 percent: decrease in spending from 2006 to 2011
71.8 million: people 16 years old or older who fed, photographed, and observed wildlife in 2011
$55 billion: spent on wildlife watching activities
No statistically significant change in the number of wildlife watchers from 2006 to 2011
7 percent: increase in money spent on wildlife watching from 2006 to 2011
Since 2006, the number of people engaging in wildlife associated activities and the amount of money spent has increased. The 2006 report estimated 87.5 million Americans took part in wildlife recreation and spent $122 billion, though the overall percentage as related to the GDP remained similar at roughly one percent.