As the United States becomes more and more urban, the number of people hunting continues to decline, and Florida is experiencing that drop even more than other parts of the country.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, in 1994-95, Florida sold 175,894 resident hunter licenses and 3,480 non-resident licenses.
By 2000-2001, that had declined to 16,1882 resident license and an increase to 7,088 non-resident licenses. In 2003-2004, resident sales had dropped to 156,036 and non-resident sales dropped to 6,761.
In 9 years, then, the total number of hunting licenses sold in Florida has declined by almost 10 percent. That’s a bit higher than the national figure — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that from 1991-2001, sales of hunting licenses decreased 7.3 percent nationwide.
Tampa Bay online sports columnist Frank Sargeant notes that a continuing downward trend in the sale of hunting licenses could have impacts well beyond hunters,
So who besides hunter should care [about the decline]?
Anyone with an interest in wildlife and wild places, actually. License sales help fund nearly 5 million acres of public land, much of it high-quality habitat for everything from whitetail deer to wild turkeys to quail, rabbits and squirrels.
Land preserved to produce good numbers of wildlife for hunters continues to do so as long as hunting pressure is managed, as it is today in all states across the nation. That’s why there are more deer and turkeys in America’s woodlands today than there have been in 100 years.
But when the interest in hunting goes away, so do the license fees. Without funding, it’s likely that the state will have to sell more of the land currently in the wildlife management programs to make ends meet — and these days, the bulldozers are rarely far behind when a piece of woods passes into private ownership.
This is one of the problems in the animal rights activists’ claims that, taken as a whole, animal watchers spend more money on their activities than do hunters. Even if you believe this, however, the hunters, fishers and trappers still pay far more money that goes directly to wildlife and land management.
This is the case especially given that hunters and wildlife watchers currently co-exist without serious problem given the large numbers who participate in one or both activities.
Hunting licenses sales keep falling. Frank Sargeant, Tampa Bay Online, March 27, 2005.