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Birding Economics

Birdwatching is one of the most popular forms of nature-based tourism. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, an estimated 71.8 million Americans enjoy wildlife watching, and 46.7 million people in this group self-identify as birders. Collectively, wildlife watchers spend about $55 billion annually. Nationwide, birder expenditures total nearly $36 billion, and related industry benefits magnify this to about $82 billion in overall economic impact.

There are an estimated 3.2 million wildlife-watchers in Ohio, and bird enthusiasts comprise an estimated 1.6 million of this total. Wildlife watchers as a whole spend nearly $750 million annually in the state. Each year about 120,000 out-of-state-birders visit Ohio, with Lake Erie the most popular destination. A recent study by Bowling Green State University researchers targeted five Lake Erie birding hotspots, all of which are part of this trail (see go.osu.edu/birding). They determined that birders visiting these areas contributed more than $26 million to local economies. Money is spent on lodging, gasoline, travel expenses, and food.

As the numbers of birders and other wildlife-watchers continue to grow, it is important that local businesses realize the impact that these visitors have on their bottom line. As a birder, you can help to grow awareness of the importance of birding to Ohio’s economy. Tear out the Lake Erie Birding Trail Calling Cards elsewhere in this book and leave them at restaurants, hotels, and even gas stations that you visit during your time along Lake Erie. Make sure that these places know you spent time and money at their establishment because you are a birder.

Source: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau. 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. Xie, Philip, F. 2012, Socio-economic Impacts of Birdwatching along Lake Erie: A Coastal Ohio Analysis, made available by Ohio Sea Grant as OHSU-TS-061.