The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

June 15, 2013

New group touts impact of hunting on economy

By SEAN SAURO
ssauro@tribdem.com

— It may be common for many to think of hunting as nothing more that a hobby or sport, but a group of economically conscious supporters claim hunting brings a monetary boost to Pennsylvania.

Members of Hunting Works for Pennsylvania – a grassroots partnership of organizations focused on educating the public about the economic benefits of hunting – announced the organization’s foundation Wednesday.

The main focus of the group is on educating the public about these benefits, co-chairman Vern Ross said.

“How many people really realize how much money goes to Pennsylvania from the hunting community?” he said.

With nearly 1 million hunters in Pennsylvania spending an average of $986 million on the sport each year, Ross said the state brings in more than $120 million in taxes annually.

Out of that million, about 76,000 hunters are from out of state, Pennsylvania Travel and Tourism Association CEO Rob Fulton said.

“Combined, those hunters spend millions on trip-related expenses every year. So, after looking at the numbers it was a no-brainer … that we take on an active leadership role in the organization.”

In addition to dollars spent, hunting creates 15,000 jobs and contributes $1.6 billion to the state economy, according to a news release.

While the state’s economy may be affected on a large scale, Ross said small businesses can benefit from hunting, too.

“When I’m heading to my hunting camp, as I’m traveling and seeing signs on local restaurants and taverns that say welcome hunters, I know if I go in, I’ll be welcome,” he said. “It makes no difference where they are.”

Ross said he believes this method could attract potential profit to many businesses across the state and he has had business owners respond positively to the idea.

“I talked to a friend of mine who owns a business and he said, ‘Get me one of those because a lot of the guys I serve are hunters.’ ”

Despite an emphasis on economic benefits, the group would also like to encourage ecological conservation, co-chairwoman Janet Nyce said.

“Not enough people understand that hunters are true conservationists and that the bulk of the money that pays to manage our wildlife is provided by hunters,” she said.

“Getting a chance to more thoroughly educate the public about this connection is just one of the many reasons I was so pleased to become a co-chair for this organization.”

The organization, which now has 60 members, is free to join and is devoted to combatting negative connotations associated with hunting, Ross said, adding that hunting gets a bad reputation from animal-rights activists.

“I think it’s a great way to explain it to the community,” he said. “We need to go on the offensive. We need to tell people what’s going on.”

Though it has only been in the works for about six weeks, Ross said similar organizations have been successful in six other states.

“Where they’ve done it before, people have really thought it was a good idea,” he said. “This is very important for the state of Pennsylvania.”

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