The economics of wildlife observation

White-tailed deer at the University of Florida’s Ordway-Swisher property. [CREDIT: UF/IFAS, Tyler Jones]

Getting out in nature is not only fun and good for you, it’s good for our economy!

According to a study by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the total economic effect of wildlife observation in Florida in 2011 was $4.93 billion, with 4.3 million people participating. Trailing only beach activities, wildlife viewing ranked as the second-most popular outdoor recreation activity for residents and non-residents in Florida. In fact, more out-of-state visitors came to Florida for wildlife viewing than any other state in the country.

Meadowlark. [CREDIT: UF/IFAS, Tyler Jones]

That’s all the more reason to protect the health of our beaches, coastal waters, uplands, pine scrubs, and all the ecosystems that provide habitat for our wildlife.

Wildlife viewing creates more than 44,000 jobs – almost as many as Walt Disney World – and has shown to be resilient to economic changes. The FWC study noting the economic impact of wildlife viewing also noted that job loss in that sector was 13 percent, much less than other Florida industries, which experienced job losses as high as 20-30 percent.

Top sites for wildlife observation in Sarasota County include:

  • Celery Fields, where visitors may see as many as 217 different species of birds identified;
  • Myakka River, the state’s only designated Florida Wild and Scenic River, home of alligators and limpkins, and site of a nesting colony of the endangered wood stork;
  • Oscar Scherer State Park, home to many threatened species, such as the Florida Scrub-jay, gopher tortoise, and gopher frog, as well as the imperiled scrub ecosystem; and
  • Our many Sarasota County beach and natural-area parks.

 

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