January 2022 Edition | Volume 76, Issue 1
Published since 1946
Building a Better Mouse Trap: A Different Approach for Evaluating the Efficacy of State Fish and Wildlife Agency Recruitment Programs
Conservation in the United States is funded largely by hunters and anglers, however, the number of licensed hunters is exhibiting a long-term decline. Recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of participants in conservation-related recreation is paramount to preserving our outdoor heritage. However, restricted funds and inadequate personnel time limit R3 efforts. Therefore, it is crucial to evaluate the efficacy of R3 programs and strategies to invest resources into the specific programs that are most effective. To address this, the Wildlife Management Institute, in conjunction with Chase & Chase Consulting, is working to develop and implement an approach to evaluating R3 programmatic impact directly by using license data from participating states to document hunter behavior across time.
Recently, WMI was awarded an AFWA Multistate Conservation Grant to use improved methodology to quantitatively evaluate the efficacy of state recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) efforts. The overarching goal is to improve the way we recruit, retain, and reactivate hunters by determining the true effectiveness of R3 programs.
Previous attempts to quantify the impacts of R3 and other participatory programs primarily used pre- and post-event surveys to determine the engagement and interest of participants. However, there are inherent biases in this approach. For example, a post-event survey that occurs immediately after R3 program participation would likely exhibit positive bias, since the skills, lessons, and ideas offered by the program are still fresh on the mind of the participant. Conversely, a post-event survey occurring 12 months after participation in an R3 event would tend to show a negative bias as participants aren’t as “connected” to the event due the longer time interval.
This study’s approach is to do a companion or side-by-side comparison of R3 program participants and non-participants to get a more accurate picture of the impacts of R3 programs. By comparing parameters such as churn (annual participation/engagement) and license/permit sales of those who have participated in R3 events against a similar “look-alike” group of participants that did not participate in the R3 events, the impact the R3 event generated on event participants can be determined. Unlike the previous efforts at quantifying R3, this study is using a matched-pair design (participants and “look-alikes” will be matched by age, sex, experience, species pursued, etc.). This approach will allow each participating state to understand specific attributes of their R3 event to determine which contributed most to the observed impact. From the results of the overall study, a set of Best Management Practices for effective R3 programs will be developed.
While this study is examining the R3 programs in eight states (two per region), study leaders are confident that the results may be applicable to similar programs in other states. Furthermore, the methodology will be refined and available for non-participatory states to examine their own R3 programs.