By Zach Widner, Northwest States Senior Manager
For me, fall doesn’t officially begin until I’ve bagged the first dusky grouse off a high mountain ridge here in my home state of Idaho. Coupled with the excellent trout fishing found in many nearby rivers and creeks, I can’t think of a better way to ring in autumn than with my own “cast and blast” weekend. While the immediate, intrinsic rewards I get from being in the woods and putting grouse on the table or a trout in the net might be the reason I’m there in the first place, I’m also proud of the fact that by engaging in these activities, I’m contributing to both conservation and our state’s economy. Each year, hunters and anglers like myself spend over $1 billion in Idaho, and in 2017 alone, the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses and tags, combined with excise taxes paid on hunting and fishing equipment, generated $57.6 million in conservation funding for the state. This unique “user-pays, public-benefits” structure of fish and wildlife management funding is known as the American System of Conservation Funding.
Another fall tradition worthy of commemorating is also fast approaching, with the 46th annual National Hunting and Fishing Day (NHFD) occurring on Saturday, September 22. As in years past, we at the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) are again proud to support and sponsor NHFD, working alongside governors in the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus (GSC) and state legislators to promote NHFD and the immense economic and conservation contributions provided by America’s hunters and anglers. As of this writing, 33 governors have issued National Hunting and Fishing Day proclamations – with several even holding proclamation signing ceremonies – while a number of state legislative sportsmen’s caucus leaders have published op-eds celebrating our sportsmen’s traditions.
I was fortunate enough to join GSC member Idaho Governor Butch Otter for a NHFD proclamation signing ceremony in Boise on September 18, where the Governor announced, “I am honored to proclaim Saturday, September 22 as National Hunting and Fishing Day in the state of Idaho. The benefit that hunting and fishing provide to both Idaho’s economy and to conservation cannot be overstated, and it is critical that we continue to ensure ample opportunities for our state’s sportsmen and women to pursue their outdoor pastimes.”
NHFD was established with the unanimous passage of two Congressional resolutions in 1972, with President Nixon signing the first NHFD proclamation that year. Since then, NHFD has grown into a major national holiday, and in addition to the aforementioned governor proclamations and op-eds, many state fish and wildlife agencies also hold NHFD-associated events to both introduce newcomers to hunting and fishing, and to note the critical role that these activities play in ensuring professional management of our nation’s fish and wildlife.
The timing of this year’s NHFD is especially appropriate, as CSF, along with the American Sportfishing Association and National Shooting Sports Foundation, recently released a series of reports detailing the expenditures made for hunting, target shooting and sportfishing gear and services in 2016. Among other data points, the reports noted that in 2016 alone, hunting and angling supported 1.6 million jobs and provided $72 billion in salaries and wages. These monies also generated nearly $20 billion in local, state and federal tax revenue, much of which benefits vital conservation and educational programs that improve our outdoor areas for all who enjoy them and make hunting and shooting safer activities.
I hope you will join me in celebrating the 46th anniversary of National Hunting and Fishing Day this weekend, and in recognizing that by participating in our hunting and angling traditions, you’re also an essential contributor to both the American economy and the funding of fish and wildlife conservation.