Panel explores issues affecting state’s hunting, fishing tradition

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NEWS RELEASE — St. Paul, MN — Minnesota’s hunting and fishing tradition is facing unprecedented demographic challenges that will require new approaches to address declines in participation rates.

That’s the essence of a new report compiled by a panel of hunting and fishing interests convened by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance (MOHA).

“Minnesota is in the enviable position of having hunting and angling participation rates double the national average,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner. “Yet challenges are ahead. That’s because young Minnesotans aren’t hunting and fishing at the levels of previous generations, long-time Baby Boom hunters and anglers are destined to drop out, and future population growth will be driven largely by ethnic cultures that do not have long-held Minnesota-based hunting and fishing traditions.”

Hunting and fishing are important to the state’s economy. Minnesota hunters and anglers spend $3.3 billion within and out of Minnesota, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2011 national survey of hunting, fishing and wildlife recreation. Hunting and fishing support 48,000 Minnesota jobs and the additional benefits of connecting people with nature, promoting conservation, and providing healthy outdoor exercise.

About 28 percent of Minnesotans age 16 and older fish; 12 percent hunt. Since 2000, Minnesota has experienced a 12 percent decline in hunting and fishing license rates as the population has grown from 4.9 to 5.3 million. Actual license sales have stayed relatively stable at 1.5 million anglers and 570,000 hunters.

A desire to sustain the state’s hunting and fishing tradition prompted Landwehr and MOHA to convene the Commissioner’s Council on Hunting and Angling Recruitment and Retention. This stakeholder council, comprised of hunting, angling and recreation interests, met several times during 2013 and issued a report of its findings.

Among council conclusions were:
• It’s in the best interest of Minnesota to sustain hunters and anglers as they support land, water and species conservation through the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses and are advocates for major environmental initiatives, including the 2008 Legacy Amendment.

• Government and stakeholders must adapt to an unprecedented generational challenge as Baby Boomers, who have high participation rates, become less active.

• The hunting and angling community must adapt to an emerging race/ethnicity challenge that may make recruiting hunters and anglers more difficult.
• The social processes necessary to recruit and retain hunters and anglers needs to be better understood by those who seek to create the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts. Barriers to development of hunters and anglers needs to be better understood and addressed.

• More rigor needs to be applied to recruitment and retention program evaluation so that outcomes can be measured more accurately.

C.B. Bylander, outreach chief for DNR’s Fish and Wildlife Division, said the council’s work was valuable. “The outdoors community recognizes the need to design and deliver more effective public and private sector recruitment and retention programs,” said Bylander. “By reviewing research and collectively applying this knowledge we can improve.” Council members included representatives from Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation and other outdoor interests.

The council recommended seven actions. Recruitment recommendations included: 1) developing and supporting after school clubs for youth; 2) an “I am a hunter/angler” marketing campaign aimed at young adults; 3) learn to hunt and fish workshops for young adults; and 4) family-oriented hunting and fishing awareness and skill workshop events.

Retention recommendations included: 1) creating a web-based clearing house for hunting and fishing information targeted at young adults; 2) a reverse mentoring campaign that encourages younger hunters and anglers to hunt and fish with older hunters and angler who otherwise may drop out; and 3) enacting a new family license that incorporates hunting, fishing, state park and other privileges.

The DNR will develop a recommendation implementation plan in the months ahead in cooperation with an on-going recruitment and retention stakeholder committee.


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