Editorial: Reversing Decline

Reversing decline in sportsmen/women

Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Mar 28, 2019

A 2017 report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that wildlife-watching is really increasing, and the number of fishermen nationwide is finally stable after declining, according to a piece by James Swan, author of “In Defense of Hunting,” published in The Outdoor Wire.

However, Swan wrote, in some states the number of fishermen is definitely declining. California is the worst. In 1982 the number of fishing licenses sold in California peaked at 2,541,627. In 2018, 1,777,008 Californians bought fishing licenses.

Nation-wide, participation in hunting has dropped from 14.1 million hunters to a total of 11.5 million. Today, only about 5 percent of Americans, 16 years old and older, actually hunt. That’s half of what the percentage was 50 years ago. Total annual expenditures by hunters have also declined 29% from 2011 to 2016, from $36.3 billion to $25.6 billion. That cuts into the Pitman-Robertson funds from taxing sales of hunting gear, which means less money for state fish and wildlife agencies.

California again has the biggest drop in hunting license sales of any state. In 1982, 763,671 hunting licenses were sold in the Golden State. In 2018, 254,833 Californians bought hunting licenses.

In response to the declines, there is a national movement underway called The Three R’s to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters and fishermen. The three R’s programs are targeting state agencies, encouraging them to create special programs to recruit, reactivate and retain hunters and fishermen. Strategies include reducing license fees in some places, increasing access, offering many programs to teach skills and finding ways to get more people out in the field and on the water.

The three R’s are a great start, but it’s also important to recognize the reasons for the decline in hunting and fishing from state to state. In some cases there’s loss of easy access to places to hunt and fish. In other cases some species are declining, such as salmon along the West Coast and diseases like CWD are increasing.

Regardless, The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is finally — after decades of doing nothing — beginning to see the light and work towards bringing new sportsmen into the fold and keeping them in the field and on the streams. It may be that a little bit of the politics has been taken out of the DFW and they are finally starting to do their job for the fish and wildlife in California.

It’s about time!

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