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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Report details how people spend time, money in Washington’s outdoors

An angler casts from a boat on Long Lake near Tum Tum, Washington, in this May 2020 file photo.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

A new report has unveiled some details about the ways people spend their time and money in the outdoors in Washington.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife released a report Thursday that found more than 7.5 million people participated in hunting, fishing and wildlife watching in the state in 2022.

In turn, those people spent a combined $9 billion on their trips and gear.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind said in a news release that the data shows that the work of the state’s fish and wildlife agency pays dividends for the state’s economy.

“Conserving fish, wildlife, and habitat and providing sustainable opportunities contribute to our way of life and identity while providing jobs and economic opportunities to our residents and generating tax revenue for the state,” Susewind said.

The numbers come from an examination of state-level data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation. The national survey – conducted twice a decade – was released this fall, and showed that Americans spent almost $400 billion on those activities in 2022.

Washington was one of 15 states that opted to receive state level data from the 2022 survey. Braeden Van Deynze, a natural resource economist for WDFW and the author of the report, said getting the state-level data helps give insight into the idiosyncrasies of wildlife-related recreation in Washington.

“It was important that we get that level of detail specifically for our state,” Van Deynze said.

Wildlife watching was by far the most popular activity covered in the report. The data showed that about 6.2 million people watched wildlife in 2022.

Fishing came next, with 1.2 million participants, and hunting was a distant third with 292,000.

Those numbers include residents and nonresidents, but the majority were Washingtonians. The report found that 4.4 million Washington residents participated in wildlife-related activities in 2022, or about 72% of the state’s population.

Van Deyne said that residents also participated in fishing and wildlife watching at a higher rate than other states that collected the state-level data, while participation lagged in hunting.

About 4% of Washingtonians hunted in 2022, lagging behind the national participation rate of 6%. But Van Deynze noted that Washington had a higher rate of female participation in hunting than other states, making for a narrower gap between the numbers of male and female hunters.

People spent a total of 67 million days recreating away from home, according to the report. Anglers spent 12.6 million days fishing, and hunters spent 2.6 million days afield. Wildlife watching accounted for the remaining 52 million days.

Those numbers are impressive, but when broken down to the individual level, they seem less staggering. On average, individual hunters spent nine days hunting; individual anglers spent 11 days fishing; and individual wildlife watchers spent 13 days watching wildlife.

Most people participated in more than one of the activities. About 31% of wildlife watchers fished or hunted, and majorities of hunters and anglers also watched wildlife. About 56% of hunters spent time watching wildlife and fishing.

And most hunters didn’t limit themselves to one species. While 74% of them chased big game like deer or elk, the report found most of those hunters also pursued small game species, like waterfowl or upland birds.

Hunters were also big spenders. The median hunter spent $1,246 on trips and gear in 2022, while the median angler and wildlife watcher each spent less than $700.

The report also noted that hunters in Washington spent about twice as much on equipment than hunters elsewhere.

The money people spend on equipment and the gas, food and lodging required for bigger trips was found to have a significant impact on the state’s budget. The report found that the $9 billion people spent on outdoor recreation was linked to an estimated $630 million in sales and business taxes going to the state’s general fund.