Wildlife activities reach record high in U.S.

Americans spent nearly $400 billion on outdoor activities in 2022

Americans spent a record $394 billion on outdoor activities last year—an all-time high even when adjusted for inflation—according to a recent survey.

The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, & Wildlife-Associated Recreation found that U.S. residents took over 1.7 billion trips to participate in activities like fishing, hunting, wildlife watching, recreational boating and target shooting, spending a record 14 billion days in the field. Over half of Americans over the age of 15 participated in wildlife watching.

The survey was conducted by NORC, a nonpartisan research organization at the University of Chicago, for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

“Time spent in nature is an important part of the human experience and can provide lifelong memories, connections to others, healthy activities, and a sense of rest and healing,” said USFWS Director Martha Williams in a statement. “These numbers demonstrate how important our public lands and wild places are not just for the wellbeing of people who enjoy them, but as an economic engine that provides thousands of jobs and sustains businesses, economies and communities throughout the nation.”

The survey has been conducted every five years since 1955, but this is the first year respondents could complete the survey online, in addition to calling in or filling out and mailing in their responses. These options, combined with a shorter questionnaire, made the survey more convenient, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it cannot directly compare the results to previous studies. This is also the first year the survey collected data on motorized boating and recreational shooting sports.

The survey found that 148 million U.S. residents watched wildlife in 2022, contributing $250 billion to the economy. Another 40 million went fishing and 14.4 million hunted, contributing a combined $145 billion. This means that roughly 57% of Americans 16 years of age or older participated in wildlife watching, 15% fished and 6% hunted last year. 

“Outdoor recreation is one of our nation’s largest economic engines,” said Chuck Sykes, Director of the Alabama Division of Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries and President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, which partnered in producing the survey. “It touches all American’s, from small rural towns to those living in bustling cities and continues to be a powerful force in our nation’s economy.”


Header Image: Visitors explore Norris Geyser Basin at Yellowstone National Park. Credit: Jacob W. Frank/NPS