Angler Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation: The Future of Fisheries and Aquatic Conservation

Chapter 1. Angling and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation

J. Wesley Neal and Douglas J. Austen


Management and use of fish and wildlife resources vary considerably worldwide in terms of form, function, and underlying principles. The approach to management of these resources in the United States and Canada has been characterized as particularly unique, with both outdoors enthusiasts and concerned citizens assuming a large role in the development of inland natural resource conservation and management. Today, hunters and anglers spend billions of dollars annually on equipment, licenses, trips, and other related expenses, contributing significantly to the economy and creating millions of jobs (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Census Bureau 2012). These expenditures provide much of the funding for modern conservation programs, at least at the state level in the United States and at the provincial level in Canada (ASA et al. 2013). For this reason, recruitment of new hunters and anglers, retention of current outdoor participants, and reactivation of those that have lapsed have become a prominent mission for state and federal management entities—there is a perception that the future of conservation may rely on people connecting with nature.

A number of authors have examined the development of wildlife conservation in the United States and Canada as it relates to the role of hunters. They described a set of tenets that emerged to guide wildlife conservation as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (hereafter, “the model”). Geist (1995) and colleagues (Geist et al. 2001) were the first to identify the pattern of conservation that originated in the 19th century when citizens began to organize and advocate for the protection of fish, wildlife, and their respective habitats. The model concept was further developed by Mahoney (2004), who laid out its important components. While these authors did not create the legal and policy infrastructure underlying the tenets that comprise the model, they recognized that such an infrastructure formed the foundation for much of wildlife management in the United States and Canada (Prukop and Regan 2005; The Wildlife Society 2007; Mahoney et al. 2008). Today, the model concept is introduced as part of the curriculum in university wildlife programs and used as a guideline by many wildlife agencies across North America.