Wildlife Viewing

Recent Trends

  • Wildlife viewing is in the NBW is a $400 million-dollar industry (2016 dollars): expenditures include purchases toward lodging, equipment, transportation, and other expenses. Approximately $121 million of this was from food, lodging, and transportation, while the other $276 million was equipment and related costs. On average, each viewer spent $592 (2016 dollars) (see graph).
  • Wildlife watching draws in out-of-state visitors: there are two types of wildlife viewers: around-the-home (<1 mile from residence) and away-from-home (1+ mile from residence). More than half of away-from-home wildlife viewers were from out of state. For residents of RI and MA, around-the-home wildlife viewing was six times more popular than away-from-home viewing. Expenses of trips that necessitate traveling away from one’s residence were not included in this report.
  • Who’s watching wildlife: almost all wildlife viewers are white and from urban areas. More than half are female and between 45-64 years old with 4+ years of college. Most have an income below $100,000. On average, they spend 23 days a year watching wildlife.
  • State Parks generate jobs and revenue: In RI alone, Sproul (2017) finds that 22 State Parks, many of which fall within NBW, were responsible for $312 million of economic impact and 3,709 jobs in 2016. Revenues and jobs are generated through visitors’ spending at parks, beaches, bikeways and camping grounds. Similar statistics for MA were not available at the time of this study.

Future Outlook

Biodiversity is changing, due in part to climate change and increasing human developments – warmer air and water temperatures pushes some species out while drawing others in. Air temperature is expected to rise 7°F, while water temperature will rise between 3.6 and 5.4°F by the next century. These changes will affect species diversity, with new species migrating in and others moving away. Habitat loss or preservation also plays a key role in species diversity. Mass Audubon estimates that between 2005-2013, 13 acres of land were developed every day, culminating at 38,000 acres of lost forest. In recent decades, RI and MA have passed legislation to preserve fields, forests, and open space through tax incentives–such conservation efforts are vital to maintaining species diversity and preventing habitat loss, thereby supporting the future of wildlife viewing in the NBW.

Read the full wildlife viewing chapter

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