RMF Hunting Economy Holding Steady through Recession

At a teleconference today, Montana sportsmen said the hunting industry is a rare economic bright spot in the current recession and are pointing to the Rocky Mountain Front as the poster child of this sustainable economy.

To back up their claims they shared five years of hunting data collected by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks on the Rocky Mountain Front.  According to that data, during 2006, at the peak of the last business cycle, sportsmen hunting along the Rocky Mountain Front spent $9.8 million; growing to $10.4 million in 2008 in the middle of the recession; and falling only slightly in 2010 to $10.1 million.

“The remarkable thing we are seeing here is stability,” said Randy Newberg, the Montana-based host of the popular hunting television series, On Your Own Adventures.  “The numbers along the Front show public land hunting has not been as susceptible to the broader economic challenges facing other industries during the recent recession.”

Fish Wildlife and Parks uses a well-vetted formula based off of the Consumer Price Index to conservatively estimate the strength of the industry based on total hunting days throughout the year. No other expenditure data from other outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, summer outfitting, or fishing were included in their analysis.

According to the data, most hunters visit the Rocky Mountain Front for upland game birds, deer, and elk while a smaller number of sportsmen hunted antelope, big horn sheep, moose, and mountain goats. 

In 2010 alone, Fish Wildlife and Parks measured more than 90,000 hunter days on its districts along the Front and reported hunters spent more than $4 million on upland game birds and more than $5 million hunting deer and elk.

That’s no surprise to Ryan Busse, who lives to hunt, and is actively involved in grassroots efforts to conserve hunting habitats.  Busse says the hunting opportunities along the Rocky Mountain Front attract not only local residents but also sportsmen from across the region and the country.

“Big Game needs big country and hunters across the nation know the Rocky Mountain Front has some of the best of that big country,” he said.  “The state, federal, and private lands along the Front together make up some of the highest quality connected wildlife habitat in the lower 48 states and that translates into an vibrant economic engine.”

Local Choteau-based hunter, Stoney Burke, says it’s no coincidence the Front still remains an exceptional big game factory, even when other parts of the Front Range have been damaged beyond repair.

“Sportsmen have been stepping up to the plate to protect the wildlife resources of Montana’s Front for over a century.  We’ve been there since the first game harvest laws were passed in the 1890’s,  we were there in 1913 helping creating wildlife preserves, we’ve supported the conservation easement program on private lands and the withdrawal of oil and gas leases on public lands along the Front.” he said.

But the work isn’t over yet according to Brady-based sportsmen Joe Perry, who says the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act is an insurance policy that will help keep economic numbers strong by maintaining the management that is currently in place.

“The best thing sportsmen can do at this point is to support the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act,” he said.  “The Heritage Act stops public land management from being played as a political football. Right now, Congress is doing everything it can to eliminate common sense conservation from public lands through bills designed to place every other use above the interests of Montana’s hunters and anglers.  The Heritage Act places sideboards on the Front to ensure that those habitats remain functioning and provide amazing hunter opportunity.” 

The hunting engine of the Rocky Mountain Front is part of a larger outdoor recreation engine in Montana which, according to the Outdoor Industry Foundation, contributes $2.5 billion to the state’s economy through hunting, fishing, and all forms of outdoor recreation.  These activities sustain 34,000 jobs (roughly equal to farming and forestry combined) and generate more than $118 million in state tax revenue.