Your birding and wildlife viewing dollars, if recognized as such, are a vote for conservation. They lobby local communities to conserve their resources not only for the health of their environment, but for the health of their economy.
Did you know?
- In 2011, wildlife viewing activities generated more than $4.9 billion for Florida's economy. In 2006, wildlife viewing activities generated more than $5.2 billion in Florida. Read the 2006 report on the economic benefits of wildlife viewing in Florida for more information.
- Nationwide, birding is big business: 46.7 million people observed birds around the home and on trips in 2011; there are nearly 72 million wildlife watchers in the U.S. Nationwide, the estimated economic impact of wildlife watching is $54.9 billion. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation)
- Wildlife viewing in Florida supports 44,623 full- and part-time jobs. That is more jobs than the entire air transportation industry (35,268 jobs) statewide. (US Bureau of Economic Analysis)
- Florida ranks in the top five in the U.S. for the number of residents who participate in all types of wildlife viewing, including trips away from home and feeding or viewing wildlife around the house. The 3.6 million wildlife watchers who live in Florida exceed the population of every metropolitan area in Florida except the Miami – Fort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach area with 5.7 million people.
- In 2011, more visitors traveled to Florida to see wildlife than any other state. (ranked by total number of wildlife-viewing days, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation)
- The number of nonresident wildlife watchers in Florida has grown each year since 2001, by 52% from 2001 to 2006 and by 11% from 2006 to 2011. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation)
- The number of participants who make day and overnight trips away from home specifically to view wildlife grew substantially in the five-year period from 2006 to 2011 (22% increase).
- Florida ranks second in the nation for the number of residents (1.4 million people) who take trips to view wildlife. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation)
- In 2011, Florida residents who enjoyed viewing wildlife around their homes (3.3 million) outnumbered the population of 28 states. (U.S. Census Bureau)
- The total spent annually in Florida for wildlife viewing is two and a quarter times greater than the value of the state's annual orange crop harvest. ($1.2 billion in 2011, Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services)
- Travel-related spending associated with wildlife viewing in Florida has increased from $675 million in 2001 to more than $1.4 billion in 2011; the overall economic effect of wildlife-viewing travel (food, fuel, lodging, etc.) equipment and accessories in Florida was $2.7 billion in 2011.
- Tax revenues in 2011 related to wildlife viewing in Florida amounted to nearly $285 million at the state and local levels and nearly $397 million at the federal level.
- The 2013 Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival had an estimated economic impact of $1,286,492 in Brevard County; $416,000 in labor income was generated and more than $185,000 in government tax revenues was accrued. (The Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival 2013: Economic Impact & Demographic Profile)
Ways YOU can use your economic might to motivate conservation:
(1) Make sure you're recognizable as an ecotourist or birdwatcher. If you are not recognized as an ecotourist, you are assumed to be a traditional tourist, for whom communities will continue to pave and develop their wild lands. Print the calling cards on this website and leave them every time you eat at a restaurant, purchase gas, or stay in a hotel while on a birding trip. Talk to people at these establishments so that they recognize the growing proportion of their business which comes from birders. Compliment them on the birds you saw and their healthy wild lands, and let them know you plan to keep coming back.
(2) Visit responsible businesses and tell them why. Businesses that landscape with native plants, give back to local wildlands or restoration efforts, and provide educational opportunities for the local community should be rewarded with our economic support and praise.
(3) Don't fall prey to false "eco-marketing." As the size of the ecotourism market grows and gains more attention, more businesses want to share in the wealth. Be an educated consumer. Tell tour operators that you pay to see the natural behavior of animals, not their panicked reactions to disturbance. Tell them you don't want a canned experience--captive wildlife or wildlife lured by food--and that you recognize that a natural experience means you might not see your target species every time, but that doesn't diminish your having a good time. Lastly, visit businesses that not only show you wildlife, but teach you about that wildlife, too.