Forget Football. It’s all about Birdwatching!

More than 71 million Americans — that’s one in 3 people over the age of 16 — participated in wildlife watching in 2006. That’s more than four times the total attendance of all National Football League games that year. I found this, and many other interesting stats, in a recent US Fish and Wildlife Service report that describes the importance of wildlife watching to the US economy.

Here are some more:
    • Expenditures for wildlife watching are equivalent to the revenues generated from all spectator sports, amusement parks and arcades, non-hotel casinos, bowling centers and skiing facilities combined.


  • In 2006, the direct expenditures of wildlife watchers generated $122.6 billion in total industrial output. Wildlife watchers spent their bucks on items such as cameras, binoculars and bird food, as well as trip-related expenses such as lodging, transportation and food.


  • About 95% of the 71 million people who connected with nature did so within one mile of their own homes.
Using data from the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, the Service found that wildlife watching not only contributes significantly to people’s enjoyment of the outdoors but is a major factor in the state and national economies.

This resulted in 1,063,482 jobs, a federal tax revenue of $9.3 billion, and a state and local tax revenue of $8.9 billion. The top 5 States ranked by economic output include California, Florida, Texas, Georgia and New York.

Once upon a time, the Canadian Government funded a similar report, called the Survey on the Importance of Nature to Canadians, but the last report was written more than ten years ago. Too bad: reports like these help to make the argument that our natural capital has tangible, measurable value and that our environmental goods and services are valuable for more than simply resource extraction.