Hunting for Numbers

$5 billion is a lot. Let’s put that into perspective. If you made a dollar a second starting from birth, you would not reach $5 billion until age 158 ½. Jason Kemper, a member of the NYS Conservation Fund Advisory Board and an avid hunter, stated that $5 billion is also the total amount of consumer spending done by hunters and fishers in the state of New York. Shocked by this statistic, I dug through surveys and reports to confirm. What I discovered was a passable amount of state-by-state data and an utter lack of regional data, which needs to be collected and analyzed before we can draw conclusions about the influence of hunting on the Adirondack economy.

The 2015 NYS Comptrollers Report corroborates Kemper’s $5 billion estimate, and the figures it uses come from a 2011 US Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Associated Recreation. The largest portion, 53%, is spent on travel, food, and lodging – expenditures which help to boost local economies. Equipment, licensing, and permits comprise the remainder of the $5 billion. As Kemper said, “yeah, it’s a big business.”

Not only is the money from hunting and fishing aiding local businesses, but the purchasing of licenses “supports the operation of the State’s 12 fish hatcheries, the assessment of game fish and animal populations, the creation of fishing access sites and the enforcement of fish and game laws,” according to the Comptroller’s Report. The report goes on to explain that funding extends beyond the protection of game species, and is also allocated to the “protection of endangered species, protection of wetlands, wildlife pathology, biodiversity mapping and assessment of threats to aquatic habitats.” Kemper refers to hunters as “the original conservationists of the country.” Whether or not hunters and fishers realize it today, their license purchases ensure that the link between conservation and hunting remains.

Needless to say, I was/am highly impressed by the economic and ecological impact of hunting and fishing in New York State. It wasn’t until speaking with Phil Terrie, board member of the environmentalist group Protect the Adirondacks, that I placed the economic impact within the scope of my Adirondack focused project. “Hunting is still a big business in NYS, but not in the Adirondacks,” Terrie says. He spoke of a decrease in revenue, licenses, and gear purchases over the last 20 years. This is where things get complicated. No such regional data exists – or at least that I can find/ have access to. This is a problem. It’s also a problem that a 2015 NYS Comptrollers Report needs to rely on data from a 2011 US Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey. In order to make the most informed policies and personal decisions, we need accurate and up-to-date data. If anyone has such a data set on the economics of Adirondack hunting and fishing, please share in the comments.

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