Friday, September 20, 2013

The importance of outdoor recreation

     As summer turns to fall and many across Idaho prepare for annual hunting trips, I am reminded of outdoor recreation’s important role in our lives and communities.

     In experiencing the outdoors and observing our natural surroundings, we gain a better understanding of the complexities of our beautiful world. Spending time enjoying the outdoors also provides an opportunity to reset from the jumble of everyday life. I grew up camping, hunting and fishing—a tradition I shared with my children and continue to enjoy today. Time spent watching the sun set below the mountains, fishing on a river and scouting out the right hunting spot are among some of the joys of life.

     In Idaho, we are blessed with some of the best natural surroundings in the world. Idaho’s abundant wildlife, forests, rivers and lakes provide unparalleled recreational opportunities. We do not have to walk or drive far from any of our communities to benefit from the outdoors. 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. 

     There is no doubt we must take care of what we have in order to ensure that we can continue to benefit from it in the years ahead. Sportsmen and women are among those who are at the forefront of funding conservation efforts for fish, wildlife and habitat. Hunters, fishermen and their outdoor recreation dollars help pay for wildlife management, which produces abundant and healthy wildlife populations.  

     In addition to the value of outdoor recreation to individuals and families, recreational opportunities also help support our economy and local communities. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2011 national survey of fishing, hunting and wildlife-associated recreation, 838,000 Idaho residents and nonresidents 16 years old and older fished, hunted or wildlife-watched in Idaho. These sportsmen and women spent $1.6 billion on wildlife recreation in Idaho. This included $629 million on trip-related expenditures, $780 million on equipment expenditures and $173 million on licenses, contributions, land ownership and leasing and other items. The survey also indicates that over the 10-year period from 2001-2011, U.S. anglers’ expenditures in Idaho grew by more than $27 million, U.S. hunter expenditures increased more than $184 million, and expenditures by both Idaho and out-of-state wildlife watchers in Idaho increased by nearly 60 percent, or more than $351 million.

      I cannot recall ever regretting time spent outdoors. Whether it was exploring as a child or camping with my family on a recent vacation getaway, we benefit from taking time to enjoy our surroundings. We must take care of our natural resources and ensure continued access to recreational opportunities so that these resources continue to benefit our quality of life, the lives of future generations and our economy.

Mike Crapo, a Republican, is the senior U.S. senator from Idaho.

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