Depending on whose figures you use, there are at
least 38 to 45 million hunters and fishers in the U.S. They are among the
most prominent and influential of all demographic groups. Their total
economic contribution is $70 billion annually, $179 billion in ripple
effect. They support more jobs than the largest Fortune 500 company, and
rank as the 11th largest corporation in America. Each year they generate
six times more gold and silver than Hollywood’s top 40 movies of all
Five million more Americas fish than golf. In a time when commercial
fishing is fingered for depleting fish stocks world-wide, the real fish
story is that sportfishing generates nearly ten times more revenue than
commercial fishing. They spend more but use much less of the resource.
License sales and federal excise taxes on rods and reels and firearms
and ammunition pay for most of the bill for fisheries and wildlife
conservation and management.
Hunters and fishers contribute up to $1.7 billion each year for
conservation. For over 60 years, they have paid this self-imposed tax
totaling more than $7.6 billion for protection of our natural environment
and fish and wildlife. Since 1934, when the first duck stamp was purchased,
more than $647 million has gone to conserving over 5 million acres of
wildlife habitat, greater in size than the State of Massachusetts,
providing breeding and wintering grounds for waterfowl and countless other
species, most of them non-game.
Volunteer hunters make up groups like Ducks Unlimited which by itself
has purchased over 10 million acres of wetlands habitat in North America.
In less than 20 years, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has acquired millions
of acres for elk and other wildlife, game and non-game. It has launched
successful programs to reestablish elk throughout the midwest and eastern
U.S. The National Wild Turkey Federation has established wild turkey
populations across the continent. There are more deer and turkeys now than
at any time in history.
Consider this: for every one of its 700,000 members, Ducks Unlimited has
purchased about 15 acres of productive wildlife habitat to the benefit of
the entire community of living things. If these men and women can translate
their love of nature which was fostered in a duck blind when they were
young into hundreds of millions of dollars to protect the living earth in a
time when the sheer insanity of expanding economy threatens the survival of
the biosphere, what do you think five million of them might do? Or fifty
The remarkable list of achievements of North American hunters and
anglers goes on, but, tragically, at the very time when the earth needs
them most the recruitment of youth into hunting is dwindling. Nine of ten
hunters are now over forty, which means that in a few years recreational
hunting may cease to exist. The decline in the ranks of hunters is due in
part to a lack of understanding of the relationship between hunting and
stewardship of the environment. What happens inside hunters that motivates
them to work together and take responsibility for the environment? Much of
the blame goes to hunters themselves who have failed to articulate the
inner side of hunting and communicate it effectively to nonhunters.