America’s Sportsmen Draw Bead on Invaders

April 25, 2007 -- Brooklyn Center, MN - A survey of twenty national hunting and fishing organizations demonstrates a growing concern about the impact that invasive plant, animal and insect species are having on the America’s woods and waters. Some of the groups are adopting conservation actions to combat invasive species. Wildlife Forever, the non-profit arm of the North American Hunting Club and North American Fishing Club, recently polled sportsmen’s’ groups about their awareness of and attitudes toward invasive species in an effort to foster a national conservation response to the threat posed by invasives.

The largest result in the poll shows that 71% of the groups have an increased awareness in recent years about the threat posed by invasive species in recent years compared to 29% who had no change in their awareness. Seventy percent believe that invasive species have significant (35%) or moderate (35%) impact on fish and wildlife issues, while 30% feel invasive species have little or no effect.

Fifty-three percent of the groups have increased existing programs or initiated new programs to deal with invasive species. However, 59% devote less than ten percent of their annual conservation mission to address invasive species and 12% make no effort to combat invasives. Thirty-five percent of the groups have adopted a specific program to address invasive species while 65% have not. Twelve percent believe invasives have a “direct or major affect” on their membership, 53% say “somewhat of an affect” and 29% answered “little or no affect.”

“Invasive species became personal to me when my favorite deer hunting area was overwhelmed by Canadian thistle,” said Douglas H. Grann, president and CEO of Wildlife Forever. “Suddenly one year I noticed that my ability to scan the landscape had been severely restricted by invasive plant growth. I lost my shooting lanes and it became a case of not being able to shoot what I couldn’t see. Canadian thistle was ending my deer hunting.”

This experience led Grann to investigate the larger issue of terrestrial and aquatic invasive species and to enter into a partnership with Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Clear Channel Outdoor, Lamar Advertising, Mall of America, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, North American Fishing Club, U.S. Forest Service, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Babe Winkelman Productions, Inc. and Wisconsin DNR to begin an education campaign for sportsmen with an eventual goal of recruiting a literal army of people who go afield each year and have the knowledge and motivation to make a difference.

“Millions of rank and file sportsmen and women adopt codes of behavior, hunting and fishing ethics, and awareness of their surroundings that can be applied to invasive species,” says Grann. “With millions of us enjoying the great outdoors we can at a minimum learn to identify invasive species and report them to state, federal and county natural resource agencies.”

Creating an informed army of outdoor recreators could build stakeholder support to positively influence funding toward combating a scourge that has billions of dollars in negative impacts on America’s wildlife, farms, fields, forests, streams, lakes and rivers.

As part of its invasive species outreach campaign, Wildlife Forever undertook a series of media efforts that totaled 125,747,367 impressions in 2006. Those efforts included TV advertisements, magazine advertisements, PSA’s, airport light boxes and a billboard on a north-bound interstate from Minneapolis to the north country.

The media impressions breakdown to date by media outreach type is 51,400,000 impressions from light-box dioramas at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, 30,000,000 television impressions from Steve Pennaz’s North American Fisherman and Babe Winkelman’s Good Fishing shows, 27,900,000 print media impressions from advertisements in North American Fisherman and Babe Winkelman’s syndicated newspaper column, 8,960,000 billboard impressions from Clear Channel Outdoors and Lamar Advertising, and 4,000,000 radio impressions through Jim Ferguson’s radio broadcast show through Wildlife Forever’s partnership with the North American Fishing Club. Wildlife Forever’s “Threat Campaign” reached 1,123 people with every $1 invested in outreach.

“America’s hunters and anglers have conservation legacy that is second to none, but they cannot react to a threat they aren’t fully aware of,” says Grann. “Wildlife Forever and our partners in the ‘Threat Campaign’ are proving that cost effective mass education can reach the one out of every six American who are hunters and anglers. We’re confident that when the education takes hold then help in combating invasives is on the way.”