More Public Hunting Land Will Help Boost Economy

The economic boost that hunting and fishing provides through merchandise sales, lodging, food and guide fees is well known. But according to a study by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department, simply providing additional public hunting areas through a state lease program adds 15 million dollars to the state coffers.

From this story in the Rapid City Journal:
A state program that leases private land and opens it to public hunting helped boost South Dakota's economy by at least $15 million last year, according to a study by the state Game, Fish and Parks Department. Most of the hunters who pursued pheasants and other game on the more than 1.2 million acres of land in the Walk-In Areas Program also said they were satisfied with it, said Larry Gigliotti, who conducts surveys and research for the department. _The study included surveys sent to a random sample of hunters and surveys collected from people at the walk-in areas last fall. More than half the hunters who received surveys responded, Gigliotti told the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission on Thursday.

The Walk-In Areas Program started in 1988 with 23,161 acres. Gigliotti said the state spent $2.2 million last year to lease more than 1.2 million acres from farmers and ranchers, and estimated spending by hunters on the days they used walk-in areas amounted to at least $15 million. Most hunters said the program included good wildlife habitat and was important to their overall hunting, Gigliotti said. The survey found 69 percent of resident hunters and 72 percent of nonresident hunters were satisfied with the program. The program is "probably one of the most positive things we do for hunters," Gigliotti told the commission, which sets hunting and fishing rules for the state. Without the program, many people would have trouble finding places to hunt, Gigliotti said.

Several other states have instituted WIHA (Walk in Hunting Area) programs with great success. Without these largely self-funded lease areas, there are a lot of hunters who would be sitting at home every fall watching football, not because they want to but because they have nowhere to hunt. How about your state? Does it have a WIHA program?_