A male pileated woodpecker, a species found in New York. Photo by: Joshlaymon/Creative Commons 3.0.
What do hunters and birdwatchers have in common? Both groups are much more likely to support conservation than the average rural American, according to new research published in the Journal of Wildlife Management.
Looking at rural landowners in upstate New York, the study found that both self-described birdwatchers and hunters were far more likely to do good for the environment than others, including enhancing wildlife habitat on public lands, donating to and participating in local conservation groups, and advocating for wildlife recreation.
“[Wildlife] managers often discuss direct and indirect links between wildlife recreation and conservation,” said study co-author Lincoln Larson, now at Clemson University. “Our findings not only validate this connection, but reveal the unexpected strength of the conservation-recreation relationship.”
The study found that hunters were four times more likely than the general rural landowners to support conservation efforts. But birders went even farther, being five times more likely to support conservation than the average landowner.
“Bird watchers, a group not traditionally thought of as a constituency by many wildlife management agencies, have real potential to be conservation supporters, if appropriate mechanisms for them to contribute are available,” said co-author Ashley Dayer with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Moreover, the study found that individuals who were both hunters and birdwatchers were more likely to support conservation than someone who did just one or the other.
“These findings advance understanding of the relationship between conservation and recreation, building upon previous studies that have revealed experience with nature is fundamental in influencing nature-related values, emotional affinity towards nature, environmental concern, and [pro-environmental behaviors],” the researchers write.
The study is timely as hunting in the U.S. is in decline, but birdwatching is on the rise. The authors argue that wildlife managers should invest in wildlife viewing as well as hunting—where investment is traditionally placed—going forward.
- Cooper, Caren, Lincoln Larson, Ashley Dayer, Richard Stedman, and Daniel Decker. “Are wildlife recreationists conservationists? Linking hunting, birdwatching, and pro‐environmental behavior.” The Journal of Wildlife Management (2015).
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