Sunday, December 21, 2014 · 3:29 a.m.

Wildlife brings billions of dollars to Tennessee

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Area duck season comes to an end Sunday, Jan. 27, except for special youth hunt days: Feb. 2 and 9 in Tennessee, Feb. 9-10 in Alabama. (Photo: Richard Simms)

It is transition time for Tennessee Valley sportsmen. The deer rifles have been put away, and except for a few hardcore rabbit or bird hunters, the shotguns are cased as well.

On the other hand, fishermen are chomping at the bit, prematurely wishing the cold, wet days of winter would fade away. Hardcore birdwatchers are busy keeping backyard feeders full or exploring new habitats for new additions to the "life lists." One thing is consistent, however: All are spending money.

According to the most recent (2011) survey by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tennesseans spend $2.9 billion a year on wildlife-related recreation. Shotguns, ammunition, fishing lures, boats, birdseed and binoculars clearly add up.

Of Tennessee's 4.9 million citizens, 43 percent of them partake in some form of wildlife-related recreation. The majority of those (35 percent) are wildlife watchers. Most of those simply watch the birds at their backyard feeders, but 14 percent of Tennesseans hit the road, traveling to special locales to observe wildlife.

Meanwhile, 19 percent of the state's populace are considered "consumptive users," who hunt and/or fish. Thirteen percent are strictly fisherpersons, 2 percent are strictly hunters and 4 percent do both.

Compare that to South Dakota, where 21 percent of the state's population hunts, or Alaska, where 40 percent of the state's residents fish.

Regardless, $2.9 billion added to the Tennessee economy is nothing to sneeze at.

"This report, the 12th in a series that began in 1955, documents a significant resurgence in the number of people embracing America’s great outdoors," said Dan Ashe, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Hunting participation has increased by 9 percent, while angling participation grew by 11 percent. The 2011 survey estimates that Americans spent $145 billion on related gear, trips, licenses, land acquisition or leases, and other purchases, representing about 1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. This spending creates thousands of jobs, supports countless local communities and provides vital funding for conservation."

Census officials are beginning the process of breaking out even more detailed data about the wildlife-related impacts for each state. The Alabama report was just released.

Click here for more quick facts from the national survey.

Click here for the full report.

Richard Simms is a contributing writer, focusing on outdoor sports.

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