Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Barnett Lawley said Wednesday that reaching out to the state’s non-hunting groups for voluntary financial support has become a priority.
Most of ADCNR’s revenues are based on its sales of hunting and fishing licenses and matching federal grants. But largely because of changing lifestyles and increased competition from other recreational activities, fewer people are hunting and fishing. That has resulted in ADCNR selling fewer hunting and fishing licenses, which in turn has had a negative impact on revenues.
At a luncheon in Birmingham, Lawley said that despite the enormous economic impact that hunting and fishing have in Alabama, “It’s very clear that we must seek financial support from the state’s non-hunting groups, and we’re gearing up for that. It will be a voluntary thing on their part, but we definitely will be seeking their assistance.”
There are 423,000 hunters and 851,000 anglers in the state, and they spend freely on their past times. Alabama ranks near the middle of the pack in state population, for example, yet is 5th in retail sales of hunting equipment and is in or near the top 10 in retail sales of fishing equipment.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hunters, anglers and wildlife observers provide an economic impact in Alabama of more than $3.1 billion. According to the Congressional Sportsmens Foundation, hunting and fishing expenditures alone support some 36,000 jobs in the state.
“The amount of money that sportsmen pump into this state is phenomenal, and we’re truly appreciative for what they do” Lawley said. “But, given the fact that hunting is in a downward trend and other outdoors activities are increasing, we think the best direction to take for the future is to reach out to non-hunting groups ? birders, hikers, bikers, really anyone who enjoys the outdoors and wants to play a role in conserving the tremendous outdoor resources that Alabama has.”
ADCNR has been especially active in programs that benefit birding ? a $626 million industry in Alabama that rivals hunting in terms of economic impact. ADCNR has helped increase the number of ospreys, bluebirds and Alabama’s wintering bald eagles. It played a major role in the development of the Coastal Birding Trail, which is ranked among the nation’s best by Audubon, and ADCNR is now involved in the creation of a North Alabama Birding Trail.
“The work that ADCNR has done for non-game wildlife tends to be overlooked, but anybody who sees us strictly as the ones who brought back the deer and wild turkey needs to know what we’ve done for bald eagles and bluebirds,” Lawley said. “What’s different now is that we need help from sources we haven’t recognized in the past to maintain our same level of involvement in non-hunting programs.”
At least for the short term, ADCNR will ask more non-hunters to consider buying a hunting and fishing license, with the understanding that by buying one, they are supporting conservation in the state. “We will work to direct visitors to our website to an area where they can buy a hunting and fishing license on line, “ Lawley said. “And we’re looking at other ways of obtaining financial support from new groups. This has turned into a priority for us.
“We think the approach we’re taking will bring together people who love the outdoors in general,” he said. “Doing it this way might be more difficult at first, but in the long run we hope that more people will become advocates for protecting and conserving Alabama’s natural resources.”
Hunting and fishing licenses can be bought on-line at www.outdooralabama.com.
The mission of ADCNR is to manage and protect Alabama’s natural resources for the enjoyment of the state’s residents and future generations.