Published since 1946
Exploring the Increase in Outdoor Recreation Participation
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we observed an influx of new and returning nature-based, outdoor recreationists. This influx was measured by increased hunting and fishing license sales, increased visitation to parks and other public lands (or recreational areas), and increased outdoor clothing and equipment purchases, among others. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Wildlife Management Institute hosted a discussion of this phenomenon during the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Several state agency, conservation, and industry leaders participated in a Zoom conference call to discuss “Outdoor Recreation in a Post-Pandemic World”.
The highlights of that meeting included observations that these new users generally were younger, more diverse, and from urban and suburban households. New users responded to new programs and advertising about outdoor activities. New users appeared to be motivated by spending time outdoors, especially with family and friends; health benefits of outdoor activity; providing food for the family; and trying new activities. Agency and organizations took action to advertise outdoor recreation-related opportunities, provide expanded information on their websites, offer new programs, and engage in virtual outreach to school students. We recognized that distance learning opportunities, reaching beyond traditional audiences, and leveraging opportunities with park programs and tourism offices may be needed in the future to sustain the level of outdoor recreation that occurred in 2020. During our conversation, participants indicated a desire to broaden the discussion by inviting other organizations to describe their efforts to sustain and enhance the increased participation in outdoor recreation observed during calendar year 2020.
Participants in the conference call are interested in what other organizations have learned about what motivated outdoor recreationists to increase outdoor activity within their areas of jurisdiction. To that end, the participants will be inviting a broader group of organizations to explore lessons learned and innovative programs. We all have common interests in the increased outdoor recreation observed last year, we share common constituents, and would like to discuss experiences and actions that may be employed to sustain this activity. These discussions are directly related to issues identified in the Fish and Wildlife Relevancy Roadmap adopted by AFWA in 2019.