The Wild Side for Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012

Big news came ast week, and major political candidates, even down to state levels, must take notice.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducts an intensive study of folks all public employees should consider their employers — us.

It takes months to compile the info (although findings come more quickly than 10 years ago), which explains why the “2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation” was released in late September.

Here’s a quick look: There are 37 million sportsmen and sportswomen ages 16 and older in the U.S., and they spent slightly more than $90 billion (“B,” no typo here) in their pursuits.

There was a nine percent increase in hunters and an 11 percent increase in fishermen since 2006.

A line from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation reaction helped boil down the survey’s pages: Equipment expenditures totaled $8.2 billion for hunters, $6.2 billion for anglers and more than $25 billion for major items like boats, ATVs, etc. Trip-related expenses totaled $32 billion.

Staggering numbers to be sure, and CSF’s Cole Henry put them in a perspective that politicians hopefully can understand.

If candidates and their staffs want to understand the political clout these 37 million outdoors folks could have, consider that California has a population about that size. And how much money will national candidates spend trying to secure California votes?

Furthermore, CSF confirmed the $90 billion in expenditures compares to the worldwide annual sales of Apple’s iPad and IPhone.

Those are numbers we outdoors folks have to translate into a change in the political climate when it comes to dealing with what we do with our free time and money. How many trade unions and political action committees do the same?

When you add the support from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the American Sportfishing Association, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, Safari Club International, Cabela’s and CSF, you can see there are groups ready to focus your passion into policital clout.

After federal restrictions on hunting in the Kisatchie National Forest, continued restricted access to public lands for hunting and fishing, increased constriction of fishing seasons and limits in federal waters, the often-proved unwillingness of federal fisheries managers to adopt new data-collection methods and more modern data-analysis and an overall federal managers’ attitude that they own what they are hired by us to manage.

Some of that can be changed in the upcoming election, and, believe it or not, outdoorsmen have the clout to effect that change.

Correction

Have to beg an apology from Melissa Kaintz, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Inland Fisheries Section biologist. In the Hurricane Isaac aftermath story a couple of weeks ago, I incorrectly spelled her name Keintz. Please forgive the error.