Overnight backcountry activities have long been declining in the United States. Be it raw numbers or as an overall percentage of the population.
People camp less. Fewer people go off backpacking. Far more people go day hiking, climbing, or other assorted day trips.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the number of people hunting has also declined in recent years.
Few hunters only go out for a day of hunting. Camping or even backpacking is needed to ensure enough time for a successful hunt in most cases.
An informative and fascinating NPR feature delved into the shrinking demographic of the US hunting population.
A trend I find worrisome as an avid outdoors person.
What does this trend mean for non-hunters or anglers?
It means the funds used to maintain, protect, and even purchase public lands is shrinking even more in this time of uncertainty when it comes to land use policy.
Hunters and anglers have essentially subsidized the public lands for many outdoor users over the years esp. on the state level. Licensing and taxes account for nearly 60% of the funds for managing the state wildlife refuges. Or over $3bn! And, a fact new to me, most of the wildlife refuges are currently under the state umbrella.
In addition to their monetary contribution, the well-organized hunters and anglers are often effective allies in preserving, promoting and protecting our public lands. Perhaps more so than the disparate and less organized outdoor users who do not hunt or fish!
With fewer funds available, will the states be less inclined to protect their public lands? Not hire the appropriate personnel? Provide lower levels of training? Or perhaps lease or even sell off the land to non-outdoor interests? Current news items give an emphatic answer of *YES* to these questions, unfortunately.
With fewer people hunting and fishing, perhaps it is time for hikers, skiers, canoeists, mountain bikers, etc. to pony up a bit and partake in the equivalent of the Dingell-Johnson (anglers) and Pittman-Robertson (hunters) Acts on the purchase of items? How to implement the Backpacker, Skier, Mountain Biker, Climber, etc. and so on of these acts I do not know.
But something must be done in the years ahead.
Something beyond greenwashing, depicting nature scenes on packaging, and purchasing products that promise to give a relatively small amount of money to outdoors conservation.
Hunters and anglers have essentially paid a tithe to protect and conserve our wild spaces. A tithe many of us have benefitted from over the years.
Maybe it is time we do the same and pay our tithe as well?