Numbers for the Birds


    My experience with bird-watching is generally limited to trying to answer the question of "What did the cat leave in the yard this time?"
    And sometimes I've pulled over to watch eagles eating roadkill. But I do not recall ever driving out of my way to see a pelican or a ptarmigan.
    However, lots of other people feel differently about our feathered friends, according to a report released earlier this week by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
    The report says that about 48 million Americans watch birds, and the state with the highest proportion of birders -- 40 percent -- is Montana.
    The report also provides information about the demographics and spending habits of birders, and it's an addendum to the 2006 (the last year for which economic data were available) National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
    I haven't had time to do more than scan these, but past reports have been useful at public hearings. When a developer touts the economic advantages of a new subdivision, it is useful to be able to say something like "But it will displace a herd of 150 mule deer, which bring in XX hunters, who spend an average of $YYY per day ..."
    Many controversies in the rural West end up focusing on economics, and it's helpful to have some dollar numbers on your side.

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