I grew up camping, hunting and fishing. I shared this heritage with my sons and daughters over the years and continue to enjoy it today. Idaho's many areas to participate in this tradition are some of the numerous reasons I love our state so much. As this hunting season kicks-off, I am reminded of the importance of hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation opportunities to our communities.
Recreational opportunities are helping support our economy. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently released a reportfrom a 2011 national survey of fishing, hunting and wildlife-associated recreation that included the following findings:
Six percent of the U.S. population 16 years or older went hunting in 2011, and they spent $34 billion on trips, equipment, licenses and other items;
Thirty-three million people fished in 2011, spending $41.8 billion on trips, equipment, licenses and other items;
More than 71 million people engaged in wildlife watching in 2011, spending $55 billion on their activities.
Regionally, the Western Governors Association foundthat outdoor recreation supports 2.3 million jobs in the Western states with $110.3 billion in salaries, wages and business income. With regard to Idaho specifically, the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation reportsthat Idaho has 259,000 hunters and anglers who spend $598 million annually and support 11,500 jobs.
In addition to the economic support for local communities, families enjoying the outdoors together through hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation help instill recognition of the important role of our natural resources, environment and wildlife to our quality of life. Respect and care for these assets are required to ensure that these opportunities remain available. Hunters, fisherman and outdoor recreation dollars help pay for wildlife management which produces abundant and healthy wildlife populations. Those who love wildlife must thank sportsmen and women, for it is their investment that is at the forefront of funding conservation efforts for the fish and wildlife that we treasure so much.
Recognizing the importance of recreation to our economy, the Senate Western Caucus, made up of Senators from Western and rural states unified behind a Western approach to solving America's problems, included legislation to support access to hunting, fishing opportunities in the caucus' jobs plan. We are working as a caucus to ensure that recreationists and sportsmen have the ability to continue to enjoy the outdoors while supporting local economies and jobs. Additionally, as a member and past co-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, I will continue to support efforts to advance solutions to concerns of sportsmen and women in the U.S. and recreation communities. This includes Endangered Species Act reform, conservation efforts and 2nd Amendment rights--rights that ensure our continued ability to hunt and fish.
Idaho's abundant wildlife, forests, rivers and lakes provide unparalleled recreational opportunities. Those of us who participate in these activities carry on a proud tradition--a tradition I staunchly defend. Protecting and ensuring access to recreational opportunities must continue to enable these resources to continue to benefit local economies and the quality of life for future generations.