February 19, 2009

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

Eureka! I think I have discovered the resolution for the economic stimulus package. Instead of doling out big bucks to bale out our country, we should use natureís big bucks to help get the existing dollars flowing more freely.

According to a report by the Congressional Sportsmanís Foundation, hunters and anglers spend $76 billion a year on their pursuits. Thatís a lot of dough. How much you ask? Well the same report notes that if you compare this spending power with the gross domestic product of a country, we anglers and hunters would rank 57 out of 181 countries.

But Iím not advocating that we secede from the nation to create our own kingdom. (Check back with me in a few months as I may change my mind on that topic.) Nope, instead of forming Huntsvlokia or Fishland, we could just offer more opportunities for this booming economic force.

If you break down the dollars spent in these two most popular outdoor pursuits, the CSF study reveals that our spending on lures and scopes and all things between accounts for roughly $300 million in salaries and wages. The government gets a big chunk of that too, as $67 million in Federal taxes, and $61 million in state and local taxes are paid by hunters and fishermen.

All those boats in the water create a ripple effect around $1 billion according to the report entitled ďHunting and Fishing: Bright Stars of the American Economy ~ A force as big as all outdoors.Ē While this may pale in comparison to the $787 billion economic stimulus package of President Obama, it is a start.

Instead of giving away our tax money to failed financial institutes, I propose the government pursue a hunting and fishing stimulus package. I would gladly sign up as an advisor, which would lend some bipartisan appeal to the current cabinet.

My first legislation would seek to expand hunting and fishing opportunities. I know I have joked in the past about making the opening day of some of our favorite seasons, into federal holidays. No more laughingÖ that would be step number one. Sure it would take some productivity out of the workplace, but most avid outdoorsmen are already calling in sick on those days anyway. The more people we put in the woods and on the water, the more of their money they will be spending on bait and bullets. It might not hurt to toss in a few new state holidays as well, simply because the federal calendar doesnít always correspond to Missouriís hunting and fishing seasons.

In the Show-Me State alone, hunting and fishing is responsible for nearly 50,000 jobs and some $2.4 billion in spending. Believe it or not, that is greater than the cash receipts for the states top two agriculture products, soybeans and cattle, according to the CSF report.

Giving us a few more free days to pursue these wonderful hobbies couldnít help but increase our spending on related items, boosting the economy and supporting more jobs.

Obviously we would have to make the president well aware of the $76 billion annual price tag he would have to pay to take our guns away from us. I know he says he wonít try, but it canít hurt to reinforce our position with our wallets.

Iíd argue that we spend some of those big federal infrastructure stimulus checks on roads that go no where. I wonít argue that we need better Interstates and urban roads, but all these folks driving out to the country to spend their $76 billion on hunting and fishing, should have decent roads to travel as well.

Then I would turn to education and use this forum in an effort to further expand the numbers of Americans who take part in these healthy pursuits. I recently read that one state is considering making bass fishing a high school sport. So why not add hunting 101 to the vo-tech program? That is one class I suspect would have excellent attendance.

Donít forget the healthcare savings these teachings could produce. Educate a kid to hunt or fish and you are giving them a reason to get out an exercise. Cigarette smoke is a dead give away to the astute nostrils of a trophy deer. Itís much easier to walk miles behind a good bird dog that to force yourself to get on that treadmill. Fish can be a very healthy mealÖ you get the picture.

What do you say? Letís forget the pork spending and focus on investing in venison and fish fillets.

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