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Will Elliott’s outdoors: New York rates high in appeal

A national survey puts New York and nearby Pennsylvania outdoors options near the top of listings for “outdoorsy” activities for state residents and visitors.

A recently released Retale Survey ranked both states in the top 10 in the top five categories considered. Population and public-access options factored heavily in this survey; California ranked No. 1. But New York State was a close second and Pennsylvania finished third in overall numbers.

Open spaces are important; parkland areas were the top three categories. New York ranked fifth for national trails with 1,288; Pennsylvania finished second with 2,442 trails.

New Yorkers can enjoy the most national parks of any state in the nation; the Empire State ranks first with 26 parks. Pennsylvania is fifth with 22. As for state parks, New York places sixth with 100; Pennsylvania’s 119 state parks ranks fourth nationally.

Size, rather than quality of outdoorsy options, matters in this survey. The two states ranked at the bottom are Rhode Island at 49 and Delaware at 50.

Retale surveyors noted, “The United States’ incredible landscapes, peaks, valleys, roving rivers, and gleaming beaches make us proud to call this place ‘home’. We hike; we climb; we wander this great continent, and still we can’t get to everything, no matter how hard we try. Many different elements make a state ‘outdoorsy.’”

The survey, designed to show the economic impact of outdoors involvement, keyed mainly on outdoors recreational activities that encouraged people to go outside and become active. Minimal attention was given to hook-and-bullet pursuits.

Recreational hiking, camping, and rock climbing were high among categories for consideration. No inclusion of hunting or shooting sports appeared in this survey; the closest to boating, fishing or angling-related activities were listings for paddlesports (canoeing and kayaking access sites) and sailing schools.

Hunting and shooting sports activities offer substantial impacts on the economy. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) cited a U.S. Fish and Wildlife national Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation that indicated hunters spend at least $22.7 billion on hunting each year, based on the 2007 U.S. Census.

A Southwick Associates survey estimated that hunters support 593,000 jobs annually. Hunter-related businesses produce $5 billion in federal tax revenue and $4.2 billion in state and local tax revenue, according to the 2007 Southwick Associates survey.

Anglers support 828,000 jobs in America and buy about $48 billion in gear each year, according to an American Sportfishing Association 2013 report. New York ranks second only to Florida for the number of anglers on state waters and total expenditures for their pursuits.

Despite the high number of non-residents that visit Florida and Alaska, New York ranks a respectable sixth nationally for total of non-resident anglers and their expenditures while visiting this state.

As for Great Lakes fishing presence, New York is second only to Michigan in the number of days anglers fish annually. Michigan, with more than twice the shoreline access of New York, logs just less than 11 million angler days, and New York posts nearly five million angler days spent on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

The Department of Environmental Conservation’s Great Lakes Fishing Survey for 2014 shows the diversity of angler options and the abundance of warm-water species (bass, walleye, perch and panfish) in relatively shallow Lake Erie waters and the impressive number of cold-water species (trout and salmon) that inhabit Lake Ontario’s deep and shoreline waters.

Fishing boat surveys for 2014 showed Erie anglers’ hours on the water highest in 12 years, with walleye the main target at 50 percent participation, yellow perch at 21 percent and bass the focus of 17 percent of fishermen.

This year, the numbers could see some change. A solid bass fishery with Erie’s perch and walleye schools on the move might alter percentages; however, an abundance of fish and continuingly high catch rates will have Erie’s numbers high again in 2015 for survey counts.

Anglers on Lake Ontario mainly target trout and salmon; these salmonids take up 94 percent of angler hours spent on Ontario waters. The DEC survey noted record numbers for angler quality (sizes and numbers for angler hours) for Chinook salmon (up 34 percent), rainbow/steelhead trout (up 35 percent), and marked improvements in lake trout and Atlantic salmon catches in recent years.

For outdoorsy Western New Yorkers, an abundance of hunting and fishing possibilities could be added to the options in the Retale Survey. For details on that survey, visit; for details on hunting dynamics, visit; for the economics and impacts of fishing, visit