The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and our partners have been trying for years to get more people hunting and fishing. And a new survey shows our work is paying off.

The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife–Associated Recreation, conducted every five years, shows that the number of hunters and anglers in 2011 is up 10 percent over 2006.

This is great news, for conservation and for the national economy.

I know that many non–hunters just shake their heads when the strongest conservationist they know turns out to be an avid hunter. But for me, and many hunter–conservationists like me, the two go hand in hand.

Hunters have always been dedicated conservationists.

They supported many early laws to conserve species and set up programs, such as the Federal Duck Stamp and the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, both of which provide money for conservation.

Another example: A group of duck hunters from Alabama persuaded the powers that be to establish Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge in 1964.

The habitat protected by our refuges such as Eufaula not only conserves some of our important wildlife species but also offers some of the nation’s best hunting. And we remain committed to increasing hunting opportunities throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System—wherever hunting is compatible with refuge purposes.

Photo of Rachel York and hunter
Federal wildlife officer Rachel York speaks with a hunter at William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. “Hunting is a key part of our shared national heritage, and I am confident that learning to hunt will grow into a real love for the outdoors,” writes U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “What people love, they protect.”
Credit: George Gentry

We recently opened the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge in Michigan to migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting, while expanding hunting activities at 16 national wildlife refuges in 14 states.

Hunting is a key part of our shared national heritage, and I am confident that learning to hunt will grow into a real love for the outdoors. What people love, they protect.

This increase in hunters and anglers reverses decades of declines and offers us a great opportunity to get out the “greatest conservation story never told,” which involves sportsmen and –women and their industries.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, which collects excise taxes on hunting and fishing gear and returns the money to the states for conservation, got its start thanks largely to the support of manufacturers and users of such gear. Imagine! Taxing themselves for conservation.

WSFR, celebrating its 75th anniversary, has provided more than $14 billion for conservation since 1937.

We cannot afford to lose the money and passion hunters bring to conservation … or what they pump into the economies of local communities.

In 2011, hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers spent $145 billion on related gear, trips and other purchases such as licenses, tags and land leasing and ownership.

These wildlife supporters made purchases throughout community economies: at sporting goods stores, guide and outfitter services, gas stations, cafes, hotels and many other enterprises.

These contributions also led to jobs at these same businesses. And this spending generated tax revenue for local economies.

Hunters and anglers have given America a great gift; let’s get out there and enjoy it.