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Hunting, fishing catching on across the country

More more people are discovering fun fishing. The number anglers is way up U.S. | Sun-Times Media

More and more people are discovering the fun of fishing. The number of anglers is way up in the U.S. | Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 19, 2012 6:04AM

There’s been so much good news this week in the outdoors world that it’s hard to absorb it all.

First off, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced that after years of decline, the number of hunters and anglers has gone up.

“Seeing more people fishing, hunting, and getting outdoors is great news for the America’s economy and conservation heritage,” said Ken Salazar, secretary of the Department of Interior, who released the numbers.

He was also in Lake County this week to announce the authorization of the Hackmatack National Wildlife refuge that is located in Illinois and Wisconsin, stretching from the Chain O’ Lakes State Park to Lake Geneva.

First the numbers.

The number of hunters nationwide increased by 9 percent while the number of anglers increased by 11 percent. Nearly 38 percent of all Americans participated in wildlife-related recreation in 2011, an increase of 2.6 million participants from the previous National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation in 2006. The wildlife service has been doing the survey every five years since 1955.

Key findings include: In 2011, 13.7 million people, 6 percent of the U.S. population 16 years old and older, went hunting. They spent $34.0 billion on trips, equipment, licenses, and other items in 2011, an average of $2,484 per hunter.

More than 33 million people 16 and older fished in 2011, spending $41.8 billion on trips, equipment, licenses, and other items, an average of $1,262 per angler. More than 71 million people engaged in wildlife watching in 2011, spending $55.0 billion on their activities.

“State agencies, hunters and anglers are the key funders of fish and wildlife conservation through their license and gear purchases,” said Dr. Jonathan Gassett, commissioner of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources Commission and president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

“An increase in participation and expenditure rates means that agencies can continue to restore and improve habitat and fish and wildlife species, bring more youth into the outdoors and provide even greater access to recreational activities,” he said.

Of course, hunting and fishing groups are the key and many of the local ones, like the Northern Illinois Conservation Club that offers youth a chance to check out air rifles, bow and arrows, clay pigeons, are responsible. Lake County also has Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited, which promote their favorite sport. Fishing groups are huge too, from Walleyes Unlimited USA, Libertyville Fishing Club, Tri-County Anglers, South of the Border Muskies Inc., and a bunch more I’ve probably missed.

Nationally, Families Afield has been working to reverse the decline since 2004 and are made up of the national Wild Turkey Federation, U.S. Sportmen’s Alliance and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“No other civilization or nation has lost its wildlife resources and then rebuilt them like we have. Federal excise taxes on the sale of firearms and ammunition, matched three to one by hunting license dollars, funded the comeback of wildlife in this country. That restoration was made possible by dedicated hunters,” said James Earl Kennamer, Ph. D., and NWTF’s chief conservation officer.

Then there’s this big new national wildlife refuge being created by another group of sometimes small organizations that promote wilderness enjoyment and have been pushing for a 11,000 acre refuge in the Milwaukee/Chicago area, the first in this region.

Friends of Hackmatack, which is Native American for the Tamarack tree, that odd little Christmas tree that sheds it’ leaves like Oaks and Elms, pushed for the designation along with Openlands, Sierra Club Illinois Chapter, The Trust for Public Land, and the McHenry County Conservation District, to name a few.

“Hackmatack, the dream of a small group of area residents that grew into a reality of national support, is the type of large scale project crucial to the work of Openlands,” said the group’s press release announcing the news.

More hunting, fishing, hiking, bird watching. It’s all good. Very, very good. Now throw down your paper and hit the outdoors with gusto.

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