People ask what hunters do for wildlife. There is plenty that is done by hunters. —Greg Sheehan, director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
SALT LAKE CITY — A new group is in Utah to promote all things hunting — especially the amount of money it says it brings in, serving as the lifeblood of many rural communities.
Hunters, said Clay Perschon, co-chairman of Hunting Works for Utah, frequently stop in towns and spend their money at gas stations and stores before they hit the field.
"Some 35,000 of them bring their relatives with them and bring new money to our economy here," he said. "The value this adds to our local economies is incredible."
Perschon, a retired employee of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, helps lead the national organization that has branched out to forge a presence in seven states, including Utah.
Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, said the time is overdue for hunters and outdoorsmen to make a united stand on the issues that are important to them.
"We plan to be a prominent voice and advocate hunters and outdoor interests," said Oda, also a co-chairman of the organization.
The group's mission was unveiled Wednesday at the state Capitol during a press event where supporters said the dollars that hunting provides Utah's economy often get overlooked.
"People ask what hunters do for wildlife," said Greg Sheehan, director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. "There is plenty that is done by hunters."
Sheehan noted that 357,000 people applied to hunt in Utah and about 80,000 of those applications were from out-of-state residents.
"Hunters are responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in this state," Sheehan said.
Improvements and restoration of key habitat for Utah wildlife are supported by the fees, taxes and surcharges on equipment related to hunting and the state has been able to parlay that into great success, he said.
"We have passed the 1 million-acre mark with the largest habitat restoration program in the United States," Sheehan said.
The first such project in the country made possible with money from the Pittman Robertson program was the creation of the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management area, he added.
Sheehan and others said the group is trying to educate people about the value hunting adds to people's quality of life through getting outdoors and how the sport supports wildlife for everyone.
"The group wants people to realize that yes, there are guns and ammo being sold out there, but there is also a secondary benefit to that, which is helping our wildlife populations."
Adam Massey, executive director of the Vernal Chamber of Commerce, said the value of hunting is well-known in his community, but few people realize the significance of its impacts across the state.
Utah hunters spent $550 million in 2011, supported 12,700 jobs at a wages valued at $310 million and also plunked down $62.5 million in sales, fuel and income taxes, Massey said.
Roger Schneidervin, another co-chairman who retired from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said over the years, hunting in Utah has continued to grow in popularity, and that is demonstrated into dollars.
"All across our state we see hunters coming into the stores," he said, "and they're wearing their orange and their camo and they have their wallets with them."