Discussion Topic: Are Our Sports in Trouble?

Preliminary numbers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey's eagerly anticipated five-year study of outdoor recreation are in, and a sneak peak at our August 2007 issue breaks them down: 30 million anglers, 12.5 million hunters, $64 billion dollars spent in 2006 by sportsmen. That's a lot of folks with some serious purchase power, but a closer look also reveals some disturbing trends: hunter numbers down 4 percent since 2001, anglers down 12.

To learn more about what's behind these declines, especially as it pertains to youth participation, Bill Heavey interviewed Richard Louv, journalist and author of the bestselling book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder:

F&S;: The USFWS is now reporting another drop in the number of sportsmen. What do you make of that?
R.L.: No surprise whatsoever. It's consistent with what we're seeing all over the country. In a typical week, only 6 percent of kids aged 9 to 13 play outside on their own.

We'd like to think our coverage shows a balance of optimism, concern, and a determination to secure a healthy future for our sports. An article posted Friday by Newsweek, however, seems to take a gloomier perspective, mixed with a little sarcasm. It opens:

If you’re a squirrel or a trout, we’ve got some good news for you: Americans are hunting and fishing less.

The fact that squirrels and trout would be infinitely worse off without the conservation efforts and dollars contributed by hunters and fishermen aside, the Newsweek coverage does highlight some especially troubling numbers, including: migratory bird hunters down 22 percent and small-game hunters down 12 percent.

We’d like to know what you think. Does the USFWS report spell doom and gloom? Or is there room for optimism. What more should we be doing to ensure a bright future for out sports?