Government shutdown devastates $144 billion wildlife recreation economy

Government inaction also is causing huge economic losses for our rural economies. The country’s wildlife-related recreation economy, which includes hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching, was estimated in 2011 at $144 billion by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In Colorado, that figure was $3 million.

Rural communities depend on the dollars that sportsmen bring each fall, and commercial hunting guides are being deprived of income during their peak earning period – akin to Christmas for retailers. This is not merely a delay -- it is a loss of real income that these communities and small business owners will never get back.
 
The closing of more than 329 National Wildlife Refuges such as the Alamosa, Arapaho, and Baca refuges for hunting and 271 for fishing also halts critical habitat protection efforts by volunteers and ongoing research.
 

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This is only the latest congressional slight to sportsmen and habitat conservation. The current closures compound the cuts proposed by Congress to key programs that fund and conserve wildlife habitat, such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and others. Congress has also failed to reauthorize the Farm Bill, which expired at the end of September. It includes critical elements of national conservation policy and is the largest private lands conservation legislation we have in this country.
 
Instead of playing politics, policymakers should be collaborating to defend our hunting and fishing traditions, small businesses, and rural economies. Congress’s failure to act is an affront to all of us, but particularly to the 37 million hunters and anglers who pay federal and state taxes, provide $1.5 billion in license revenues, and generate more than $86 billion in retail sales.
 
Congress and the White House need to end the shutdown, and make habitat and natural resource conservation efforts a priority on par with other uses of our public lands. Any budget agreement must include funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other vital conservation programs, which provide access for hunters and anglers, bolster wildlife protection, and contribute to a lucrative outdoor recreation economy.
 
There will be no recovery of lost wages for the small businesses and rural economies that depend on hunting and fishing on America’s public lands for their livelihoods. But perhaps there will be a return of common sense before hunting season ends in less than three months.

 Perricone is the co-founder of the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance.