In the United States, there is a group of people that make an impact on the economy of the nation as well as the economy of the state in which they reside. Most people in this group do not even realize that their hobby creates an economic impact. I am speaking of Wildlife Watchers. In 2006, there were 71 million wildlife watchers in the United States, 1.16 million of which were in the state of Alabama. What kind of an economic impact does this group of people have on the nation’s economy and on the economy of Alabama?
Before the question of economic impact by wildlife watchers can be answered, there is one other question to answer. What is a wildlife watcher?
The answer to this question will seem easy after a little explaining. Wildlife watchers include those people who enjoy just watching wildlife in a natural setting and often these people will even entice the wildlife to a certain area by planting or placing food that the wildlife are attracted to in that area. These wildlife watchers can be any of the people who watch and/or attempt to identify wildlife, such as bird watchers. They are also those people who photograph wildlife as well as anyone who feeds wildlife on a regular basis, even just with a bird feeder in their yard. Also, a person who maintains a minimum of a quarter of an acre of land in its natural state for the benefit of wildlife as its primary purpose is considered a wildlife watcher and anyone who plants vegetation with benefiting wildlife in mind, such as agricultural crops or shrubs, is considered to be a wildlife watcher. Anyone who visits a local park, one that is within a mile of their home, specifically to observe, feed or take pictures of wildlife would also be considered a wildlife watcher. With this many qualifications for being a wildlife watcher it is easy to see why there are so many in the United States.
The 71 million wildlife watchers in the United States that were surveyed for this report were all 16 years old and older. This group of individuals spent $45.7 billion on equipment to aide in their wildlife watching and on trips that were related to watching wildlife. They also helped employ 1 million people that came with a labor income of $40.5 billion. These individuals also paid $8.9 billion in state and local taxes and $9.3 billion in federal taxes. This is the national economic impact that wildlife watchers had in 2006, but what about on the state level?
The state of Alabama had 1.16 million wildlife watchers, 16 years old and older, in 2006. With 1.16 million participants in this hobby, Alabama ranked 27th in the nation. These 1.16 million individuals spent $450 million in retail sales, $59 million in state and local taxes and $57 million in federal taxes as well as a total multiplier effect of $763 million. There were also 10,157 jobs and $261 million paid in salaries, wages and business owner income related to wildlife watchers.
Wildlife watching in the United States is growing each year. This is also true for the state of Alabama and is good news because if the number of participants grows, the amount of money that is spent also grows. The statistics in the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation clearly shows that this trend is continuing. So to answer the question “What kind of an economic impact does this group of people have on the nation’s economy and on the economy of Alabama?” is that there is a positive economic impact by wildlife watchers, one that benefits both the nation and the state of Alabama.www.library.fws.gov/nat_survey2006.pdf