What is the value of fishing and hunting to North Dakota?
An economic activity report just released by the North Dakota State Game and Fish Department provides some impressive statistics that help to answer that question in terms of dollars and cents.
The report, produced by the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at North Dakota State University, tracked hunter and angler expenditures for the 2017-18 hunting and fishing seasons.
Overall, during that licensing year, the report estimates hunters and anglers in North Dakota spent $974.4 million dollars on equipment, vehicles, boats, travel, lodging, food and many other items.
Anglers spent $787.8 million and hunters $186.6 million.
Residents spent a total of $486.4 million in rural areas, while nonresidents spent $89.6 million, for a grand total of $576 million - or 59 percent of all spending - in rural areas.
Direct and indirect expenditures from hunters and anglers generated approximately $48.2 million in state-level tax collection.
The direct expenditures documented in this study are about $330 million higher than a similar study conducted in 2011-12, and the numbers reinforce the importance of hunting and fishing to North Dakota’s economy.
By adding just two letters to that earlier question and making it “What is the value of hunting and fishing to North Dakotans?” the answer would change dramatically.
Last spring, in the annual fishing issue of North Dakota “Outdoors” magazine, Game and Fish fisheries chief Greg Power wrote about the value of fishing. His essay wasn’t about money, but rather about personal value that anglers get from fishing.
“Many anglers define the value of fishing by the number of hours or days on the water, while others value targeting big fish, or filling the livewell,” Power wrote. “Then there are those who simply value the smile on a kid’s face when the bobber dips below the surface.”
Changes over time also influence how individuals value fishing.
“If you go back 35 years, the North American (including Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota’s largest walleye fishery) average harvest rate for walleye (hours fished per walleye harvested) was 8.5,” Power wrote. “Today, on average, it takes less than 3 hours to harvest a North Dakota walleye … if fishing/catching would revert to one walleye every 8.5 hours of fishing, it’s highly likely many anglers would no longer fish.”
And that, of course, is a product of higher expectations based on just how far North Dakota’s fishing has come since the drought-ravaged late 1980s and early 1990s. Fishing is much better in more places, about 40,000 more residents are buying licenses than was the case 30 years ago, and that many more anglers are fueling today’s record economic activity.
It’s an important example of how hunting and fishing activity, and its related economic benefits, are directly tied to the quality of the natural resources that sustain our valuable outdoor pursuits.
A complete copy of the NDSU report is available by visiting the Game and Fish Department’s website at gf.nd.gov.