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Nebraska Researchers Evaluate Needs and Interests of Sportsmen and Women
In the U.S., the success of fish and wildlife management continues to be closely aligned to hunter and angler participation. License sales and taxes on hunting and fishing equipment provide vital revenue to state management agencies, and the vested interest of sportsmen and women provide crucial advocacy for conservation. Moreover, management objectives are often met under the direct stewardship of sportsmen and women. The dependence by management agencies on hunter and angler participation makes understanding what drives participation in outdoor recreation critical to conservation success. Researchers at the USGS Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission are working to understand the needs and interests of sportsmen and women to help ensure the legacy of fish and wildlife resources in the Cornhusker State.
In 2011, 558,000 residents and nonresidents 16 years old and older fished, hunted, or watched wildlife in Nebraska (Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation). Generating more than $1.3 billion in annual economic development for Nebraska, and bringing millions of dollars of federal funding to the state, the value of anglers and hunters for Nebraska goes well beyond managing Nebraska’s wild places.
Opportunity is a key limitation on hunter and angler participation. To provide opportunity, Nebraska invests considerable time and resources toward improving public access on Wildlife Management Areas and private lands enrolled in the Open Fields and Waters Program. Although investment in public access is assumed to be beneficial, there is limited information on how or even if access fulfills the needs of the hunting and fishing community. Indeed, much of what we know about hunter and angler participation, satisfaction, and even harvest lacks the kind of detail necessary to help inform decisions about the value of investments in specific fields or waters within a larger statewide access program.
In Nebraska, interviews of hunters and anglers at public access sites across the state are not only helping to identify the opportunities each site provides, but they are helping managers understand how sportsmen and women perceive the sporting landscape. Like the fish and wildlife they pursue, hunters and anglers appear sensitive to changes in the sporting landscape well beyond where they may be hunting or fishing on a particular day (Martin et al. 2017). Knowing how changing access in one location may ultimately shape the use of access in another can help managers meet the needs of a large and often regionally unique constituency.
Ultimately, by integrating wildlife sciences and human dimensions, the Nebraska Hunter and Angler Research program hopes to use field-based interviews to enhance the ability of natural resource agencies to manage public lands and waters and invest in private land and water initiatives.
The ONB features articles from Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units across the country. Working with key cooperators, including WMI, Units are leading exciting, new fish and wildlife research projects that we believe our readers will appreciate reading about. This article was prepared by Joseph Fontaine, Assistant Unit Leader, USGS Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.