Each year, more than 63% of Arkansas’ residents participate in some type of outdoor activity, according to the Outdoor Recreation Association (ORA). The most popular outdoor activities include running, fishing, cycling, hiking and camping.
That translates to big dollars for the state’s economy.
Outdoor recreation in Arkansas generates more than $9.7 billion in consumer spending annually and accounts for 96,000 direct jobs, $2.5 billion in wages and salaries and $698 million in state and local tax revenue.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Arkansas’s gross domestic production in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting totaled more than $2.8 billion in 2016.
Conservation is key to this important economic pillar of Arkansas. Without the pristine rivers and lakes and the lush forests and mountains that all contribute to the state’s breathtaking scenery, people wouldn’t spend their hard-earned dollars enjoying the great outdoors.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission—in addition to its mission of protecting, preserving and conserving Arkansas’s species of fish and wildlife—has helped improve quality of life in the state through conservation and education. The AGFC takes a roughly $91 million budget and continues to invest in programs, infrastructure improvements, facilities, habitat work, research and more.
In 2018, a survey of likely Arkansas voters conducted by Gilmore Strategy Group, polled voters to better understand Arkansans’ conservation priorities and interests. The items rated most important are seen below.
Clearly these areas of emphasis fall within the AGFC’s range of resources and expertise, and through its efforts and programs the commission is equal to the task.
The AGFC owns 24,000 acres of lakes, manages 600,000 acres of lakes and 100,000 miles of rivers and streams, manages 400,000 acres of wildlife management areas, cooperatively manages 3.2 million acres of public land, owns five fish hatcheries, four nature centers (a fifth center is under construction in Springdale) and five conservation education centers.
By continuing to invest in conserving and protecting habitats and wildlife, the commission helps maintain an industry that contributes heavily to Arkansas’ quality of life in terms of both generating revenues and preserving natural beauty.
According to the most recent National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation compiled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Census Bureau, hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers spent more than $1.8 billion on wildlife recreation.
In 2011, the last year national statistics were available, Arkansas ranked seventh in total retail sales by hunters, bringing in $877 million and almost $100 million in state and local tax revenues. Texas, which has five times the land mass and 8½ times the population, ranked first with $2.3 billion in retail sales.
Deer hunting in Arkansas brings in $370 million in retail sales while the state’s world-renowned duck hunting brings in more $236 million in retail sales and more than $29 million in state and local taxes.
Recent statistics show that wildlife watching also continues to be popular with Arkansans. The most recent information available shows that wildlife viewing accounted for almost $220 million in revenue.
Additionally, the management of fish, wildlife and their habitats directly contribute to Arkansas’s tourism industry which generated more than $7.8 billion in Arkansas in 2017.
It is the commission’s intent to continue to provide the type of outdoor experience the public expects and deserves. Fishing, hunting, wildlife watching and conservation education are important to the state and increase the quality of life for Arkansans and maintaining these opportunities for future generations is a top priority for the AGFC.