Department of Fish and Wildlife discuss COVID and economic impact before joint committee

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Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – The Interim Joint Committee on Tourism, Small Business, and Information Technology, co-chaired by Representative Kim King of Harrodsburg and Representative Phillip Pratt of Georgetown, met today to hear from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife briefed members about the impact of the pandemic on their department’s revenue. Fishing and hunting license sales alone fund 48 percent of the department’s budget.

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Before the pandemic, Fish and Wildlife contributed $5.9 billion, a vital force for Kentucky’s economy. The Commonwealth has a 13 percent participation rate for fishing and an 8 percent participation rate for hunting. Outdoor recreation such as fishing and hunting lead to long lasting memories with family and friends, provide healthy food sources, and draw tourists into Kentucky.

Representative Lynn Bechler of Marion asked Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Rick Storm for an explanation on how COVID-19 has impacted the license sales.

Storm shared that the sales trend has predominately been impacted by the way of life nowadays.

“A father and mother used to pass their hunting and fishing down to their children. Now, we have the mothers and fathers that both have a job. We are all busy, regardless of our trade. It’s just a change in culture,” said Storm.

According to report by the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), outdoor recreation has a powerful impact on Kentucky’s economy. It contributes 120,000 jobs, generates $12.5 billion in consumer spending, and $756 million in state and local tax revenue annually. OIA’s report estimates that 61 percent of the state’s residents participate in outdoor recreation each year with many of them participating in fishing and boating. The state manages 170 boat ramps in an effort to provide quality access to boat ramps because fishing and boating continue to play a vital role in tourism in the Commonwealth.

During the pandemic the Department of Fish and Wildlife spent their time redesigning their website and launching brand new forms of communication efforts. The live online seminars provided by the Salato Wildlife Education Center of Frankfort reached over 1.5 million viewers on Facebook. The seminars taught the viewers the importance of boating safety and even gave a virtual tour of a fish hatchery. These online programs give children and families the opportunity to continue learning while they’re at home.

For full details of the meeting, please visit legislature.ky.gov or follow the link here for the meeting materials. To watch the full meeting, visit the Legislative Research Commission YouTube page here.