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Wildlife-related outdoor activities increasingly popular
TIME: 03:34PM Thursday September 20,2012
FROM:Austin American-Statesman   
We who hunt and fish, along with increasing numbers of birders, paddlers, campers and hikers, like to trumpet the tradition and heritage that keep our outdoor lives healthy and dynamic.
It may be hard for some who oppose activities such as hunting and fishing to comprehend how important they are to our lives, our families and our sanity.
I don't have to kill or catch something to have a wonderful, affirming and energizing outdoor experience. But I have to go, and I have to try. It's fundamental to my genetic makeup.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a report showing that, since 2006, wildlife-related activities have increased in 28 states. Last year, Americans spent $145 billion on equipment, trips, purchases, licenses, leases and the such.
That's a big number and important because in our world things that have economic value tend to stick around. Hunting and fishing have economic value, which means the traditional values almost certainly will continue to be a part of our lives.
"All of us who work on behalf of our state and country's outdoor enthusiasts were quite heartened to see hunting and fishing participation rates increase materially across the country in the last five years," said Carter Smith, executive director of Texas Parks and Wildlife.
"That is particularly notable and gratifying given that we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Act, a conservation funding program paid for by hunters, anglers, and related industry," Smith said. "It is a conservation partnership with a long track record of success and is made possible only through the investments made by industry and our hunting and angling partners."
Smith, of course, has a vested interest in the success of wildlife-related activities in Texas.
Steady participation means steady revenue streams for state wildlife and fisheries programs.
"Hunting, angling, and wildlife-associated recreation is big business for Texas. Direct expenditures from hunters, fishermen and wildlife watchers exceeded $6 billion (in the past year), which is significant for businesses and communities across Texas," Smith said. "In addition, from a purely quality of life perspective, Texans obviously value their time afield.
Nearly one-third of all Texans reported that they participated in some kind of fishing, hunting, or wildlife-based recreational activity.
"And, among all the states, in sheer numbers alone, Texas has the most resident hunters, as well as the second-most anglers and wildlife watchers. These numbers alone make a strong and compelling case for investing heavily in the future of our fish and wildlife in Texas," Smith said.
Texans bought 2.21 million hunting, fishing or combination licenses last year. And, encouragingly increasing numbers are being sold for youth and women.
Youth licenses totaled 145,000 in 2011, compared to 125,000 just 10 years before. Licenses sold to girls increased from 19,515 in 2008 to 24,420 last year, TPWD reported. And there are now 233,000 women who have purchased fishing licenses.
If we have boys, girls and women getting involved, we have a much better chance for traditions to survive, for hunting, fishing and birding activities to grow and become a bigger part of the fabric of life in Texas.
That's good news for all of us, for me, for my grandchildren.
"A growing body of research continues to speak to the significant physical, mental and emotional well being of children who spend time in the outdoors fishing, hunting, camping, and otherwise enjoying nature," Smith said. "Take a kid hunting, fishing, or camping. The future of our proud hunting, angling and outdoor traditions depends upon it."
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