Group aims to protect future of hunting in Utah
Troy Olsen has a $1 billion message for Utahns.
That’s the financial ripple effect of hunting in the state each year, according to Hunting Works For Utah, the one-year-old group for which Olsen is a regional representative. The group claims that the 200,000 people who hunt in Utah annually spend about $550 million, which generates 12,700 jobs and ultimately has an extended impact of some $925 million.
Hunting Works launched a chapter in Utah last year, making this the 8th state to get involved. The organization, which is funded primarily by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, seeks the support of businesses that support hunting and the shooting industry. Their goal is to publicize the economic boost that hunting gives the economy and, if necessary, lobby for the rights of hunters.
“Hunting is rooted so deep in our heritage that sometimes people take it for granted,” Olsen said, “but fewer hunting opportunities means fewer hunters going out.”
That, in turn, means local businesses take a financial hit, he said, noting that when Utah’s national parks closed during last year’s federal government shutdown, many rural shops that rely on outdoor recreationists nearly went under.
Olsen and Roger Schneidervin, a retired Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologist who is volunteering as a co-chair for HWFU, were in Logan on Tuesday to speak at the Cache Chamber of Commerce luncheon. There they hoped to recruit Cache Valley support for their organization, something they said required no financial commitment. Since the group has national funding, all they ask is that businesses become “partners,” and sign up to support HWFU.
“Once they hear the message, they’re on board with the important role that hunting plays in the economy,” Schneidervin said.
Dozens of businesses from around the state have signed on already — from sporting retailers to gas stations to motel operators — but so far the only Logan-area member is the Cache Chamber of Commerce. Olsen hoped to change that this week. When he spoke at the Vernal Chamber of Commerce, he said, one-fourth of the attendees signed up with HWFU.
“I haven’t talked to a business yet that hasn’t signed up,” Schneidervin said. “If you believe hunting is important to the economy, sign up.”
With many partners on board, HWFU will have that much more weight behind it when the time comes to lobby for hunters’ rights, he added. So far the group hasn’t done that in Utah, but it has been involved with legislation in Arizona, and Schneidervin said if Colorado’s fledgling Hunting Works group had been in place one year earlier, it might have successfully fought off a ban on magazines holding more than 15 rounds. That, in turn, would probably have kept magazine manufacturer Magpul from leaving the state.
Another issue that Schneidervin said HWFU stands ready to oppose would be the proposal of any law that would ban lead ammunition, something he said would “have a tremendous economic impact” if it were adopted in Utah, where the average hunter spends $2,600 a year.
In the meantime, HWFU will continue to be a presence at trade shows and other gatherings as they seek more partners.
“It’s such a good message and such a simple message that it sells,” Olsen said. “You talk to people and this light bulb comes on and they say, ‘I knew that but I didn’t know that.’ We can be the vehicle to get the message out.”