Hunters bring billions to Michigan’s economy each year
By Lydia Lohrer / Special to the Detroit Free Press
When I talk to administrators in Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources, they grouse about hunting’s decline.
Sure, there was an almost 3% dip in hunting license sales over the past year, but that hasn’t stopped the sport from serving as a powerful cog in Michigan’s economy.
Hunting Works for Michigan, which promotes strong economic partnerships between hunting and shooting communities and the state, figures hunters spend $2.3 billion and provide an economic ripple effect of $3.9 billion to the state of Michigan each year.
“28,000 hunters come from out of state to experience Michigan’s opportunities,” said Nate Prouty, coordinator for Hunting Works for Michigan. “At least half a million of hunters are residents. It all has a ripple effect on the economy.”
Hunting Works is a conglomeration of businesses that consider themselves beneficiaries of the hunting community. Naturally, Michigan United Conservation Clubs is involved. But the potential gains from hunting attract conservationists and profit-seekers alike.
Mark Griffin, President of Michigan Association of Convenience Stores and Michigan Petroleum Association, says his organization represents around 4,000 of Michigan’s estimated 4,800 gas stations and has joined Hunting Works for Michigan.
“We are able to take the pulse of pretty much everyone in the retail gas industry in Michigan,” Griffin said. “We joined because a lot of our members benefit from hunting. It contributes to their bottom line, and when you hear that there’s a $3.9 billion ripple effect from hunting, well, my members share in that to a large extent.”
Griffin is not a hunter but understands the value hunters contribute to his membership.
Michigan hunters individually spend an average of $4,400 per year, according to Hunting Works. They spend gas each time they head to the field, Jay’s Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shops or a local hardware store for gun oil.
They buy targets and bullets, guns and clothing, and trucks, boats and four-wheelers. They spend money that contributes to manufacturing jobs, trucking jobs and retail jobs. Small cabins in the woods are rented, hotel rooms filled. Restaurants get business from those in pursuit of organic, free-range meat.
Cadillac’s Pilgrim Village Fishing Shop owner Steve Knaisel only sells fishing supplies, but he says the hunting business is a boon.
Cadillac is surrounded by state and federal land, making it a hot spot for outdoors enthusiasts.
“We sell the hunting licenses in the stores. Mostly anyone that fishes, also hunts, and it brings people to the area,” Knaisel said. “Locals are very good callers. They have become pretty sophisticated at hunting turkeys. They don’t just shoot the first bird. Some of them make good guides, another occupation supported by hunting. A healthy environment and abundant natural resources bring hunters, who in turn, bring jobs.”
Taxation for the cause
Every gun, bullet, bow and arrow is subject to an 11% excise tax that aids in restoration of wildlife. When Knaisel was born, he says the only turkey he would see was on a thanksgiving table.
“Now, thanks to the money hunters spent to restore wild turkeys, they are everywhere,” Knaisel said.
He is right. Since the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act was enacted in 1937, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that states have operated and maintained over 33 million acres of wildlife management areas for recreational purposes each year. What’s more, 70% of the users don’t hunt, and some 38.6 million acres are managed for wildlife in agreement with landowners.
Prior to the enactment of the legislation, bison, deer, elk, wild turkeys and countless other species were on the precipice of extinction. Hunters banded together for laws limiting the amount of game they could shoot and lobbied legislators to tax them. Anglers followed suit 13 years later in 1950 with the Dingell-Johnson Act, which was sponsored by Detroit’s John Dingell to provide assistance in fish restoration plans and management.
The Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act helped restore 2.7 million acres of wetlands left dry by industry in the dust bowl. More than 300 national wildlife refuges were created or have been expanded using Federal Duck Stamp dollars around, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Michigan has purchased with those funds over 110,000 combined acres along the Detroit River and within the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge and the Seney Wildlife Refuge.
Then, there are the user fees (hunting licenses) that fund the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, tasked with managing one of the largest state forest systems in the nation. Some 5-7% of the budget is paid for by the general fund, but a significant portion is the result of hunters.
Hunting Works wants to bring awareness to the effort, including the economic benefits of getting free-range meat from the forests and fields.
Hunters have a role to play in the lives of waiters and waitresses, farmers who sell hay for targets and seed for winter deer fields. Your local hardware store or gas station that sells jerky. There’s so much more.
Membership is free. To join the group, go to http://www.huntingworksformi.com/