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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service releases state-by-state report on fishing, hunting and wildlife-associated recreation

Populous states had the largest number of hunters and anglers, but less populated states had the largest percentage of residents who hunted or fished, according to the preliminary state report of the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation published by the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last June.

Wildlife-related recreation continues to be an important outdoor activity in all regions and states of the U.S. Nationally, the number of participants increased from 77 million in 1996 to 82 million in 2001. While 38 percent of the population 16 years and older enjoyed some type of wildlife recreation in 1996, 39 percent did so in 2001.

Not all regions, states, and wildlife recreation activities experienced increases. Some of the most populous states and regions had the largest declines, and hunting declined by 7 percent nationwide since 1991.

“It is clear we still have a lot to do to assure that wildlife and their habitat are an integral part of the lives of urban Americans. Children growing up in the cities and suburbs today are the Nation’s potential conservationists of tomorrow,” said Service Director Steve Williams. “We need a strong public/private effort to assure adequate protection of our wildlife resources and their availability for all Americans to enjoy.”

A comparison of the number of hunters, anglers, and wildlife watchers for the past three surveys (1991, 1996, and 2001) reveals regional variation for each type of recreation. Although there was no statistically significant difference in the number of anglers nationally, participation did drop in

six of the nine Census Regions from 1991 to 2001. The biggest drop, 16 percent, was in the Middle Atlantic (NY, NJ, PA). The Mountain (AZ, CO, ID, NM, UT, WY) and West North Central (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD) regions had increases.

The seven percent decline in the number of hunters nationwide from 1991 to 2001 was led by a 24 percent drop in Pacific (AK, CA, HI, OR, WA) hunters. The Pacific trend was dominated by the drop in California. The West South Central (TX, OK, AR, LA) had an 8 percent increase. The West North Central had no decline but the remaining six regions dropped by 5 to 13 percent from 1991 to 2001.

In 2001 residential (around the home) wildlife watching rebounded slightly from its 1991 to 1996 decline, with the Mountain Region surpassing its 1991 level. Five Regions had increases from 1996 to 2001 – West North Central led with a 21 percent increase. The participation declines in four Regions were 5 percent or less.

Nonresidential (away from home) wildlife watching continued its 1991 to 1996 downward trend nationally and in most Regions. From 1996 to 2001 there were small increases, eight percent or less, in participation in the West North Central, Mountain, and Pacific Regions.

In a state-by-state breakout for hunting, Texas tops the nation with 1,201,000 in-state hunters, followed by Pennsylvania with one million, Michigan with 754,000, New York with 714,000 and Wisconsin with 660,000.

In Montana, 24 percent of the people in the state hunted. Montana was followed by North Dakota with 19 percent; West Virginia and Wyoming with 17 percent; and Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, and South Dakota with 16 percent.

Florida attracted 3,104,000 in-state anglers. California follows with 2,444,000, Texas with 2,372,000, Minnesota with 1,624,000 and New York with 1,555,000.

In Alaska, 41 percent of the state’s population enjoyed fishing. Alaska is followed by Minnesota at 36 percent, Wyoming at 32 percent, Montana at 31 percent and North Dakota at 29 percent.

California tops the charts with 5,720,000 wildlife watchers, followed by New York with 3,887,000, Pennsylvania with 3,794,000, Florida and Texas with 3,240,000, and Ohio with 2,897,000.

In Vermont, 60 percent of the state’s citizens observed wildlife. Minnesota follows with 54 percent, Alaska and Wisconsin with 53 percent, Maine and Montana with 52 percent and Oregon and Washington with 49 percent.

According to the 2001 National Preliminary Report, the 82 million Americans who engaged in wildlife-related recreation in the United States spent more than $110 billion pursuing their activities. These expenditures accounted for 1.1% of the gross domestic product, a considerable contribution to the U.S. economy.

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