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ADF&G begins study of Alaska's wildlife economy

June 1st, 2012 | Hannah Heimbuch Print this article   Email this article  

Alaska's Department of Fish and Game has decided to take a closer look at the money spent in pursuit of the state's wildlife — whether the aim is to watch it, wear it, mount it or eat it.

Between hunting, trapping and wildlife viewing, Alaska's wild things draw dollars into the state economy from residents and non-residents alike.

What ADF&G wants to know is how much, where, and on what.

Independent research firm ECONorthwest initiated the first stage of the study last week, launching an email survey to upwards of 16,000 people.

"We (have) had some inquires from people asking if it was legitimate," said ADF&G wildlife viewing coordinator Anne Sutton, saying there was some suspicion from those wary of the typical online spam. "Folks wanted to know that it was for real."

And real it is. The $400,000 study, paid for from the federally supported Wildlife Restoration Fund, will collect information from residents and visitors who took advantage of wildlife viewing opportunities. It will also survey residents and visitors who bought 2011 hunting and trapping licenses.

"Using the data collected from these surveys, the study will describe and quantify, where possible, the relationship between wildlife and Alaska's economy," stated a release from ADF&G about the study.

Researchers want to know in what regions people spent their cash, and what is bought them — gear, transportation, food, guides, etc.

Other survey formats following this first online stage include snail mail and telephone contacts. Data collection is expected to stretch through the next couple of months, wrapping up with a final report in fall of 2013.

The Department is hoping to better identify the role wildlife activities have in various parts of the Alaska economy, Sutton said. "We're hoping to get a good sense of what the economic benefit is to the state."

This study does not include fishing industries of any kind.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does put out a similar study, Sutton added, but her department feels they need a more comprehensive analysis in order to better understand this critter to cash flow connection.

"We've found that their numbers don't always reflect what we're seeing on the ground," she said. "And they use a fairly small sample. We can get a lot more detail from the national survey."

An expanded understanding of these connections will serve to better inform the state's decision makers, Sutton said.

"When they're making policy decision that affect the department, it's important to know just how it will affect the economy," she said. "We don't base our decisions purely on economic figures, but it is certainly an important consideration."

For more information on this project, contact Anne Sutton at or at (907) 465-5157.


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