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Burgeoning nonresident permit sales boost Missouri's economy

Sales of nonresident hunting permits brings tens of millions of dollars into Missouri annually, supporting thousands of jobs and generating business for motels, grocery stores, sporting goods retailers and a host of other businesses.(Missouri Dept. of Conservation photo)
Big increases in permit sales to hunters and anglers from other states are funneling millions of dollars into Missouri's wildlife-based economic sector.

JEFFERSON CITY--Dramatic increases in sales of nonresident hunting and fishing permits over the past two decades are channeling millions of dollars into Missouri annually. State officials say the economic impact of those out-of-state dollars has been critical to the Show-Me State's economic health during a time of economic uncertainty.

The Missouri Department of Conservation released the 2003 Annual Hunting and Fishing Permit Distribution and Sales Summary, last week. The report shows substantial increases in sales of nonresident deer and turkey hunting permits.

Sales of Nonresident Spring Turkey Hunting Permits soared more than 500 percent from 1980 to 2003. State revenues from the $145 permit topped $1.4 million last year.

During the same period, sales of the $145 nonresident deer hunting permit increased more than 300 percent. Sale of these and other nonresident deer hunting permits added more than $2.5 million to state fish and wildlife programs last year.

In all, nonresident hunting and fishing permit sales totaled $6.2 million in 2003. That is up from $4.6 million or 35 percent from 10 years ago. Nonresident hunting and fishing permits bring in 23 percent of Missouri's permit revenues.

Conservation Department Director John Hoskins said these figures do not come close to representing the economic benefits Missourians ultimately reap from their conservation successes.

"It is wonderful that people from other states help fund our conservation programs," said Hoskins, "but that is small potatoes compared to the economic activity they generate during their trips to Missouri. While other sectors of the economy have struggled through the past three years, Missouri's wildlife-based tourism has continued to grow, bringing in customers for a whole range of businesses."

Conservation Department surveys show that the average nonresident deer hunter makes 6.7 trips here each year and spends approximately $30 per trip. With 25,843 out-of-state hunters, that translates into $5.2 million in expenditures for fuel, food, lodging, supplies, equipment and clothing.

A 2001 study by The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) found that anglers spend an average of $1,046 on their hobby each year. That means the 49,000 out-of-state anglers spent more than $50 million in 2003. Not all of that amount is spent in Missouri. Again, however, out-of-state anglers need food, fuel, lodging, equipment and supplies while here.

Conservation Department calculations show that hunting and fishing support more than 40,000 jobs statewide and generate $3.2 billion in Missouri business income annually.

None of these figures take into account the food value of wild game and fish. Missouri's deer harvest alone puts more than 10 million pounds of venison on tables annually. In addition, Missouri hunters bring home and share an annual harvest of 70,000 wild turkeys, 929,000 squirrels, 529,000 rabbits, 806,000 doves, 427,000 quail, 487,000 ducks, 158,000 geese and 30,000 pheasants.

Although similar numbers aren't available for the number of catfish, largemouth bass, trout and other fish taken home by Missouri anglers each year, the food value of sport fish is substantial.

However, hunting and fishing are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of wildlife's economic value. People who enjoy wildlife through feeding birds, watching wildlife, nature photography and other nontraditional activities outnumber hunters and anglers. Missouri's 1.8 million wildlife watchers spend approximately $444 billion annually. These expenditures generate $997 million in business revenue.

"Missourians have always understood that taking care of forests, fish and wildlife is good for more than just the soul. It is smart business," said Hoskins. "That understanding is why Missourians amended the state constitution twice--first to create a unique commission to make conservation decisions and again to provide a stable, adequate funding base for their conservation program. Their investment of faith in conservation continues to pay off."

- Jim Low -

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