Smart phones are ubiquitous. They make life easier for all of us, but the moment I saw a kid riding his bike in my neighborhood while texting, I knew there was a problem. In the years following that incident, I have seen kids spend more and more time experiencing a form of virtual reality, ignoring the real world around them. In spite of my own efforts, I began seeing a similar trend with my own kids. When it became obvious this trend was only worsening, we swapped our son’s smart phone for a flip phone. Clearly, he was not thrilled!
In the world of outdoor recreation, I hear a lot of numbers thrown around. The US Department of the Interior published the results of a 5 year study on the participation of outdoor activities between 2011 and 2016. To summarize, roughly 40% of Americans – 101.6 million of us – participated in hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing (bird watching, photography, etc). Wildlife viewing activities grew by 20% during these five years to 86 million participants. Fishing also grew, though more slowly, by 8% to 35.8 million. Hunting, though, dropped by 2 million down to 11.5 million. This trend is very concerning.
“No one does more for our wildlife and or wild places than hunters. Any decline in hunting numbers, real or perceived, is of great concern since hunting provides the lion’s share of funding for nationwide conservation work thanks to excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment that garner more than $1.6 billion annually,” said David Allen, then president and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Aside from hunters, no other outdoor recreation group places any type of excise tax on their equipment. Yet the benefits of those taxes are enjoyed by everyone. With the decline in the number of hunters and the associated dollars coming from equipment, licenses and tags, the wildlife are the ones which will suffer most. Many speculate that the decline in the number of hunters is due to life-long hunters aging out and low first-time hunter recruitment numbers. To ensure the trend of conservation continues, two things must happen.
We must recruit the next generation of hunters.
Other outdoor recreation industries must voluntarily begin contributing to the cause of conservation.
Hunters will continue to shoulder this responsibility without complaint. Who will step up next?