Outdoor recreation on rise, but hunting and fishing falter

By David Frey

Photographs line up at Parker River National Wildlife refuge in Newburyport, Mass. ©Matt Poole/USFWS

More Americans are recreating outdoors than 10 years ago, according to a recent report, and that trend is expected to continue its decades-long climb. Nature viewing activities are among the fastest-growing pursuits, but traditional activities like hunting and fishing have seen per capita declines.

The survey found participation in 50 nature-based activities grew 7.1 percent overall between 1999 and 2009, and researchers expect most of those activities to continue to grow in popularity. Skiing, hiking, birding and horseback riding were among the activities likely to increase the most by 2030. Hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and off-road vehicle driving were expected to see the smallest gains.

The report, “Federal Outdoor Recreation Trends: Effects on Economic Opportunities,” found nature viewing and photography activities had nearly 10 times more participation days than any other activity. Hiking was the most popular backcountry activity. Skiing and snowboarding were among the fastest-growing pursuits.

Days spent big game hunting rose 22.2 percent between 1999 and 2009, researchers found, but the number of hunters per capita continues to fall and is likely to drop by at least 11 percent by 2030. Angler numbers per capita are expected to fall by more than 2 percent.

The report was prepared for the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation, which consists of seven government agencies including the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service. Its findings were based on the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment, a telephone survey of people 16 years of age or older.

The USFS is a Premier Partner of TWS.

David Frey is an editor at The Wildlife Society. Contact him at dfrey@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about his article. Read more of David's articles here.

You can follow him on Twitter at @davidmfrey.