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The Hairy Woodpecker

Birding Business April 2015

There’s no Free Ride

By Ray David  - Editor/Publisher

THE JOURNAL OF WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT recently ran a piece by Caren Cooper about getting people outside for the benefit of their mental and physical health.  The broader scope of the piece, though, was the environmental benefit of hunters and bird watchers who are among the most consistent supporters of conservation activities.

State wildlife agencies have a long history of designing programs for their hunting constituents (who contribute to the agency’s financial support) but they are not yet sure of the value of bird watching.  The numbers of hunters are dwindling while bird watchers are increasing, and given the financial consequences, agencies are asking whether the growing flock of birdwatchers can compensate for the loss of hunters.

The study focused on residents in rural, upstate New York, in areas with low population density and stagnant economies. These are areas where poor economic conditions sometimes result in problems being framed as jobs-versus-environment. Cooper and her colleagues wondered how rural people who are outdoor recreationists value their natural resources compared to those who are not outdoor recreationists, and found that there is hope for conservation in rural communities, through both binoculars and bullets.

Americans who are not familiar with consumptive forms of recreation (hunting and angling) may be surprised by the engagement of hunters in conservation. On the flip side, agencies concerned about declines in hunting should be pleasantly surprised that birdwatchers are also ardent conservationists. Hunters pay for hunting licenses and support wetland conservation by purchasing duck stamps which have financed the protection of over 6 million acres of wetlands, and hunting equipment on which an excise tax goes to wildlife agencies. This type of monetary conservation support is easy to track and agencies rely on it.  But there is no way to track the number of birders who buy duck stamps.

Quantifying the conservation value of birdwatchers is almost impossible were it not for their high enrollment and impact in citizen science projects. That elusiveness may partly account for a misperception of birdwatchers as free riders on the conservation efforts of state agencies.

Almost everyone in the New York sample carried out certain conservation activities. The most common include recycling, energy conservation and making green-product purchases. The differences between outdoor recreationists and non-recreationists were most pronounced through a distinctive set of activities. Only bird watchers and hunters carried out conservation activities that required a high level of commitment, such as habitat restoration, joining local environmental groups, engaging in advocacy for wildlife recreation and donating money to conservation.

All else being equal, hunters were almost three times as likely, and birdwatchers three-and-a-half times as likely as non-recreationists to enhance wildlife habitat on public or private lands, and hunters and bird watchers were each about twice as likely as non-recreationists to donate money to conservation.
This story is taken, in part, from a  Scientific American blog post article written by Dr. Caren Cooper.

Table of Contents

Field to Feeders
Michelle Z. Donahue
Wild bird food takes a wild journey to get to retailers shelves.

The Lighter Side of the Birding Biz
by Rich Crete
Sometimes customers can be inadvertently funny

A Family Affair
by Mike Anderson
Gold Crest Turns Twenty

Make New Friends While Keeping the Old
by John E. Riutta
New media vs. tried and true print

In-Store Advertising
by Hank Weber
Different ways to attract new customers

Setting the Mood
by Hank Weber
Appeal to the five senses

Keep it Clean

$5 Per Transaction
by Hank Weber
What you can do to increase the value of each transaction

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