OLYMPIA– Fish- and wildlife-associated recreation provides a major economic stimulus for Washington, recently generating nearly $2.2 billion in annual spending across the state.
That's the focus of Adding It Up, a recently-completed report by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) now available on the agency's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/pubaffrs/adding_it_up.htm
The 16-page publication features dozens of business owners, civic leaders and other citizens who describe how their communities profit from of spending by fishers, hunters and wildlife-viewers.
"The economic significance of fish and wildlife-associated recreation to local communities is huge," said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings. "We sometimes fail to make the connection between healthy, sustainable fish and wildlife populations and the vitality of local economies around the state. This report, and the people featured in it, are a clear reminder of that vital connection."
WDFW's report comes on the heels of a nation-wide U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) survey which detailed participation by people over the age of 16 in fish- and wildlife-related recreation.
Data for the USFWS survey was collected in two phases by the U.S. Census Bureau, with sample sizes designed to provide statistically reliable results at the state level. Major findings of the survey include:
- Fishers, hunters and wildlife viewers spent a combined total of over $2.18 billion annually in Washington state in 2001.
- Washington ranks first in the Northwest, and eighth in the nation, in spending by sport fishers, which totaled nearly $854 million in 2001.
- Washington ranks first in the Northwest, and seventh nationally, in spending by wildlife-watchers, with participants spending a total of nearly $980 million in 2001.
- Hunters spent nearly $350 million pursuing their sport in Washington in 2001.
- Nearly 2.5 million people, both residents and non-residents, participated in wildlife-watching activities in Washington in 2001, while 227,000 people hunted here and 659,000 sport anglers fished here.
"It's important to note that we have been able to maintain– and in some cases expand– these recreational opportunities even while protecting fish and wildlife as required by the Endangered Species Act," Koenings said. "Meeting these dual objectives would not have been possible without the department's scientific and technical expertise in sound resource stewardship."
WDFW's report focuses on the importance of this spending to individual businesses and communities, particularly those in rural areas where timber, mining and other traditional industries have declined.
Civic leaders and business owners in communities from Colville in the northeast corner of the state to Ilwaco on the Pacific coast relate how spending by anglers, hunters and wildlife-watchers is playing an increasingly integral role in their local economies.
The report also chronicles the steady growth of annual fish and wildlife-themed festivals across the state, as wildlife-viewing grows in popularity with the maturing of the baby-boom generation. At least 12 such festivals now take place each year in communities from the Upper Skagit Valley to Walla Walla, sometimes drawing thousands of tourists.
In Leavenworth, for example, organizers of the annual Wenatchee River Salmon Festival estimate about $300,000 flows into the local economy during the weekend the festival is held, quickly filling up motel rooms, restaurants and retail stores.
While WDFW's first responsibility is to conserve the state's fish and wildlife resources, state law also directs the department to maximize recreational fishing and hunting opportunities for state citizens.
Koenings said the report underscores the need to not only maintain but expand predictable fish and wildlife-associated activities consistent with sound, scientifically- based resource management.
One of the department's most important jobs in the years ahead will be to work even more closely with civic leaders, business groups and citizens to find ways to increase fishing, hunting and wildlife-viewing opportunities, he said.
"We have an obligation not only to build on the relationships we've already established, but to create new ones," Koenings said. "It's no exaggeration to say that many businesses in many communities are depending on these relationships to prosper."