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More Americans are heading outside--and in kinder and gentler ways, according to a national study by the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station.
The recent study shows that, unlike the previous generations, today's nature lovers tend to bring home mementos in the form of photos rather than trophy heads. In other words, fewer Americans are hunting.
In just the past 10 years, the number of Americans getting out to the great outdoors grew by 7.1 percent, and the number of days spent doing outdoorsy things grew by 40 percent.
But while the numbers of people getting out is up, the number going outdoors to hunt and fish remained largely static or slightly declined during the same period. This comes on the heels of a seven percent decline in hunting in the 1990s, and researchers project further decline in the years to come.
Instead of guns, Americans these days appear to prefer cameras, as activities centered around viewing and photographing nature saw the largest spike in growth. Other fast-growing activities included skiing (both the snow and jet varieties) and horseback riding.
The study is part of a periodic, mandated review of land-use trends.
"Trends in nature-based and other outdoor recreation have far-reaching implications, especially for how we manage public lands," said Ken Cordell, an author and lead researcher of the study on the USDA's website.
Indeed, the trend away from hunting and fishing could cause authorities to rethink in how public lands are funded. Most states rely on revenue from hunting and fishing licenses to fund fish and wildlife agencies.
Of course, with more of us living in cities than ever before, and with younger generations being raised during the rise of PETA, the trend away from hunting and fishing is understandable. Logistically it's easier to bring home a photo, as anyone who's tried to strap a deer to the hood of a Prius could tell you.
And if your family and friends don't hunt or fish, it's very unlikely you will either. "Hunters hunt with other hunters. As hunting partners move away, pass away, or become involved with other activities, participation by other hunters in the group declines," the researchers at Responsive Management point out in their comprehensive study on hunting in the United States.
Graphics via USDA report