The announcement that National Hunting and Fishing Day is to be celebrated on September 23 might have landed in your outbox one minute and been consigned to oblivion the next. But here’s a compelling reason to, well, hunt it down and fish it back out. (See what we did there?)
Those involved in the outdoor sports of hunting and fishing generate nearly $800 million annually for state and local economies, supporting countless jobs, boosting local economies and helping fund public resources and wildlife management. Plus, it’s good psychologically and physiologically.
That latter part is not just a theory, either. New research from the University of East Angliahas noted that living close to nature and spending time outside has significant and wide-ranging health benefits, including a reduction in the risk of Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress and high blood pressure. In addition, populations with higher levels of greenspace exposure are also more likely to report good overall health, according to global data involving more than 290 million people.
Unfortunately, it’s a message that’s not yet permeating society. The Outdoor Foundation Board Chair, Sally McCoy, noted at an Outdoor Foundation session that participation is a “leaky bucket…we’re losing more out the bottom.”
Moreover, she said, Outdoor Foundation research confirms “we’re late in the game” as far as reversing trends. Half of U.S. adults participate in outdoor activities (walking, hiking, etc.) less than one time a year. Also, only 18 percent of adults and 21 percent of children participate in outdoor activities once or more per week.
The Outdoor Industry Association has issued a “call to action” on participation in outdoor sports. The organization’s recently-hired executive director, Lise Aangeenbrug, said there’s a greater “sense of urgency” around outdoor participation because the industry is risking seeing two generations disconnected from nature.
She noted that Millennials went outside half as much as their parents when they were kids and now Millennials are becoming parents. Aangeenbrug noted that studies regularly show that people that participate in outdoor activities as kids are three to four times more likely to go outside as adults.
There is hope, however. As recently as September 2017, nearly half of all Americans over the age of six, or 48.8 percent of the US population, participated in outdoor recreation at least once in 2016. That equates to a total of 144.4 million people – two million more people than participated in 2015. These findings are part of the Outdoor Foundation’s recently-released Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, the leading report tracking American participation trends in outdoor recreation with a focus on youth and diversity.
There’s a parental component too. Data shows that adults who were introduced to the outdoors as children were more likely to participate in outdoor activities during adulthood than those who were not exposed to the outdoors as children. In fact, 37 percent of adults who were introduced to the outdoors during childhood grew up to enjoy outdoor activities as adults. Only 16 percent of adults who do not currently participate in any outdoor activities had outdoor experiences as children.
What else can help? Initiatives like Take Me Fishing, a product of the Recreational Boatig and Fishig Foundation, have brought beginners into the fold and helped the understand recreational fishing. And with bass fishing being the ‘now’ sport for everyone from high school to college and beyond, it has been easier to hook novices on competitive tournament action. (The upstart LetsGoShooting.org, which intends to bring newbies into the shooting fold, is using a similar tactic.
Aageenbrug says it’s all in the approach, noting the industry’s “collective action and collective impact” on participation drives efforts elsewhere. She said, “We have the opportunity to do that through this ripple effect. If we invest deeply in communities and bring partners together, use the research and tell the story, we can impact beyond the community we invest in.”