New group aims to promote hunting in Utah
The Herald Journal
October 31, 2013
By Kevin Opsahl
Clay Perschon, a wildlife biologist and UDWR retiree, says he can’t drive around Cache Valley these days without experiencing a flood of memories from his time as a Utah State University student, duck hunting and fishing in Cutler Marsh on weekends.
“It was more rural than Centerville, so when I came here it was like, ‘Are you kidding me, I can go to school and in 10 minutes I can go hunting?
I’m liking this!’ It just enabled me to take a few steps forward of what I wanted to do,” said Perschon, who was in Logan earlier this week recruiting partners for the newly formed Hunting Works for Utah group. “I guess I’m the example of how some people are just born with something — and I was absolutely just born with (hunting and shooting). That’s who I am. It can’t be changed.”
After years of being the hunter, Perschon is now looking out for hunters in Utah with the new group — formed earlier this year — that aims to promote economic partnership between the hunting and shooting communities and the state economy.
According to a news release, Hunting Works for Utah will serve as a vehicle to “facilitate important public policy dialogue and tell the story” to lawmakers, the media and the general public of how Utah’s hunting industry positively affects Utah jobs. It will monitor public policy decisions and weigh in on hunting-related issues. Six co-chairmen lead the group, including Perschon, State Rep. Curt Oda and State Sen. Allen Christensen.
Troy Olsen, state coordinator for Hunting Works for Utah, is excited about the group’s formation.
“Basically what we’re doing is spreading the word that hunting and shooting sports are not just important to Utah heritage, but to the local and state economies,” he said. “So we’re going to various towns and signing up business partners, organizations, people who have a vested interest in hunters and what they do for the community. We’re building a coalition.”
The group already has 30 partners on its roster, and hopes to at least double that over the next year.
Partners include businesses, chambers of commerce and sporting organizations. During their visit to Logan, Perschon and Olsen added the Cache Chamber of Commerce to its list of partners.
As of now, the group doesn’t have any hard goals or agendas.
“We are a young organization, and we’re reliant on volunteers, and I think within the next year, we’ll have more ideas,” Perschon said.
Hunting Works for Utah is being funded by concerned organizations such as the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Perschon noted the difference between Hunting Works for Utah and other hunting groups throughout the country.
“Most of those organizations will focus on conservation, and I think what differentiates this organizations is we’re pointing out the importance of the money side of it; how it fits into these local economies,” he said.
Perschon and Olsen said hunting is an “enormous boon” to the state economy — more than most people realize. According to a recent study by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, hunters spend an estimated $550 million on the sport each year, resulting in $65.2 million in state and local tax revenue, 12,700 jobs, and a $925 million “ripple effect” on the state economy.
“I think it helps all of us, society at large, make sure we’re doing the best that we can not to tip over an economic boat inadvertently and cause problems for people,” Perschon said.
But sometimes, he notes, that boat is tipped — and it was felt in Utah recently with the government shutdown. The national parks that are the hallmark of Utah tourism were forced to close. Then, Gov. Gary Herbert took drastic measures and re-opened the parks before politicking in Washington, D.C. actually came to a resolution.
“The impact in Southern Utah of those businesses that were reliant upon those coming to the parks, the impact was felt and people said oh my god, what are we going to do? This is going to kill us if they’ve gated that parks off,’” Perschon said. “It’s an important case study. In the rural areas the economies aren’t as complex, and so if something happens, one aspect of the economy, it makes an enormous difference. Literally it’s a survival item to them.”
Given some setbacks, the revenue hunting and shooting are generating in Utah is sustainable, Perschon said.
“I think that we’ve got a robust hunting economy here, and we’re certainly working hard to sustain a resource base, which is wildlife,” he said. “I feel good about where we are and what the future is. I’m a professional wildlife manager, and I think anytime you’re dealing with natural resources, they’re finite, so in the future I think it’s about maintaining what we have and improving what we can, where we can.”
He is confident that Hunting Works for Utah will accomplish what it has been established to do, but it will take help from lawmakers and businesspeople outside of the group, too.
“You better pay attention to the economy and keep it on track and don’t make bad decisions, because there are horrible consequences if things go awry,” Perschon said.