Photo of waterfowl hunting in a marsh
Photo credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

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Recreation, Education and Research

Wetlands provide many recreational, educational, and research opportunities. In the United States, more than half of all the adults (98 million) hunt, fish, birdwatch or photograph wildlife, annually spending a total of $59.5 billion in the process. Coastal areas themselves attract at least 100 million Americans each year. At least $18 billion in economic activity is generated annually from coastal wetland-dependent recreational fishing by 17 million Americans.

Nature-related recreation is the fastest growing activity of the tourism industry — with an annual increase of about 30% since 1987. In 1996, 160 million Americans spent $29.2 billion to observe, photograph or feed wildlife. Much of this nature-based tourism involves birds, many of which are wetland-dependent. Each year, about $20 billion are spent on seed, travel and equipment by birders. Birding has increased more quickly than other outdoor recreation activities, such as biking, pleasure walking, skiing and golf. In fact, participation has tripled from 1982-83 (21 million) in to 1997 (63 million in 1997). The birding public is quite active — 24.7 million people took trips away from home to partake in birding, spending $5.2 billion in goods and services in 1991. This high level of participation by Americans in bird-related recreation is a clear indicator of the societal value of birds. An inordinate amount of this recreational birding is associated with wetlands and aquatic habitats. This undoubtedly relates to the fact that birds in particular tend to gravitate towards wetlands and aquatic habitats, which in turn attracts natural history and outdoor enthusiasts.

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Section 10 of 12