Fargo - From algebra and geometry in high school to statistics and calculus in college, my earned "C" was treated like a "B" or even an "A" in my mind. No matter the amount of studying and preparation, it just never seemed to add up.

So even to this day I struggle to really digest and interpret numbers, but what I do know is that people spending time outdoors is on the rise and I'm more than happy to relay the message, as the number of hunters and anglers in America increased by about 10 percent over the last five years, according to a preliminary report recently released by U.S Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

"Seeing more people fishing, hunting and getting outdoors is great news for America's economy and conservation heritage," said Salazar.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation says the number of hunters increased by 9 percent and anglers by 11 percent.

The preliminary report shows 90.1 million Americans, or nearly 38 percent of the population 16 years of age and older, participated in wildlife-related recreation in 2011, an increase of 2.6 million participants from 2006.

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They spent $145 billion on related gear, trips and other purchases, such as licenses, tags and land leasing and ownership. The wildlife-related expenses in 2011 represented 1 percent of the nation's gross domestic product.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service is dedicated to connecting people and families with nature," said its director, Dan Ashe. "We look forward to continuing to work with the states, nongovernmental organizations and additional partners to help keep recreational fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching going strong for people across America's great outdoors."

Among the results:

E In 2011, 13.7 million people, 6 percent of the U.S. population 16 years old and older, went hunting. They spent $34 billion on trips, equipment, licenses and other items in 2011, an average of $2,484 per hunter.

E More than 33 million people 16 and older fished in 2011 and more than 71 million people engaged in wildlife watching in 2011.

E The number of hunters and anglers had fallen from 40 million in 1991 to 34 million in 2006, according to previous surveys.

Spend enough time looking at these numbers and hopefully a clearer picture is forming. Outdoor recreation is not just alive and maintaining. It's alive and growing.

"It appears we may have turned a corner," Salazar said. "We've been a partner in many recruitment and retention efforts over the years and, while that work must continue, there is reason to believe programs to connect more Americans to the outdoors have been successful."

Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email at dleier@nd.gov. Read his blog at dougleier.areavoices.com