Participation in hunting continues to grow. Over the last decade the Ontario hunter education safety program, which we administer on behalf of the Ministry of Natural Resources, has trained over 250,000 new hunters in Ontario. Of particular significance is that the proportion of females and youth taking the course continues to increase. In fact, according to the 2012 Canadian nature survey, almost eight million Canadians hunt, fish, or trap, more than those who play golf and hockey combined.
Hunting, trapping, and fishing represent an annual contribution to the Canadian economy of $13.5 billion. When the $1 billion from guides and outfitters and the $700 million in sales generated by the fur industry are factored in, the overall contribution from the outdoor community rises to $15.2 billion annually.
Hunting and trapping generate economic prosperity. The purchase of goods and services associated with these activities impacts on many sectors of the economy. In fact, in the last two years, Canadian Tire, recognizing the growth of these activities, invested $10 million in expanding sections of 170 stores across the country with products associated with hunting.
For many communities across this country, this economic contribution keeps them afloat even in hard times. Recreational hunting and fishing tourism alone injects over $1 billion annually into the economy, provides job opportunities, and supports hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses from coast to coast to coast.
In most jurisdictions the millions of dollars generated by licence and permit sales support conservation programs and projects, either through vehicles such as the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation in B.C., the Fish and Wildlife Development Fund in Saskatchewan, the wildlife reinvestment program in Quebec, or through mechanisms such as the special purpose account in Ontario, where licence sales contribute over $70 million of the $95 million annual budget for fish and wildlife in the province.
Hunting, trapping, and recreational fishing also have an enormous upside in terms of tourism-related opportunities. A 2006 study entitled, “Sport Fishing and Game Hunting in Canada”, carried out by the Canadian Tourism Commission, examined the recreational activities and travel habits of Americans in particular. Not surprisingly, it turns out that with regard to U.S. tourists, there's a huge upside when it comes to hunting in this country. For instance, over the period 2004-05, 9.2 million adult Americans went hunting while on a trip to Canada. An additional 32.1 million came here to fish. Clearly, Americans know what we already do, which is that this country is home to some of the best outdoor opportunities available anywhere. This in turn opens the door for significant revenue generation and employment opportunities for a wide range of businesses and communities across the country that cater to the hunting, trapping, and fishing communities.
I know in recent days that some members of Parliament have questioned why this committee should be seized with an item related to hunting and trapping. Putting aside the place of these activities in the history of our country, the heritage and cultural perspective, and the massive economic contribution made by hunters, trappers, and anglers, perhaps I can provide another perspective on why this issue is relevant to this committee. Quite simply, hunters, trappers, and anglers are leaders in the conservation of our natural resources. In fact, they were among the first recognized conservationists in North America dating back to the late 1800s. At a time when commercialization of wildlife was destroying species at an unprecedented pace, hunters, trappers, and anglers stood up and cried, “Enough”. Leaders such as Wilfrid Laurier and Theodore Roosevelt, supported by hunters, trappers, and anglers, viewed conservation of our wildlife not only as a matter of national concern, but as a matter of national relevance. Hunters, trappers, and anglers sought to improve the worth of the two countries and recognized that prudent, wise use of natural resources and conservation of wildlife were signatures of progressive leadership.
How they managed at a time when vast areas of the country were still unoccupied, when an abundance of natural resources still existed, and when, by today's standards, there were relatively few people on the land, to create a movement that focused on conservation of our resources was a remarkable sign of leadership and vision. What resulted was the creation of the North American model for wildlife conservation that continues to govern management of wildlife resources in North America today.
The same organizations that represent hunters, trappers, and anglers are also among the leading conservation organizations in the country. Take my own organization, for instance. Over the last 20 years we've been engaged in the restoration of species in Ontario, most notably elk, wild turkey, and Atlantic salmon, all of which were teetering on the brink of extinction. Our invasive species program, the largest non-governmental program of its kind in Canada, works in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, DFO, and Environment Canada to prevent or control the spread of aquatic and terrestrial invasive species. Our stream steward program works with local landowners and farmers to restore creeks and wetlands. Our classroom hatchery program, which is currently in 125 schools across southern Ontario—including five hatcheries at the Toronto Zoo—teaches kids about habitat and how important it is to preserve and protect our fish and wildlife species.
Take the example of similar restoration programs undertaken by every one of our affiliates and partner organizations across this country. In 1978 the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation created the Habitat Trust Fund, which to date has protected over 65,000 acres of habitat. Ducks Unlimited Canada has completed 8,880 habitat projects and conserved over six million acres of wetlands. The B.C. Wildlife Federation's wetlands education program was created in 1996 to restore, enhance, and conserve wetland sites across the province. In 1983 the Alberta Fish and Game Association had the foresight to see that critical habitat was disappearing at a rapid rate, and created the Wildlife Trust Fund, the province's first land trust. Today that fund includes over 80 properties that encompass 36,000 acres of important wildlife habitat. In 1988 the Manitoba Wildlife Federation established their own habitat foundation, the oldest privately funded habitat foundation to receive, hold, maintain, and manage upland and wetland habitat in perpetuity. Last but by no means least is Wildlife Habitat Canada. Since 1985 they have provided over $50 million in grants to more than 1,500 habitat conservation programs across Canada, funded entirely by hunters purchasing migratory bird permits and duck stamps. In fact, in a 2000 study, WHC undertook a national survey where hunters alone were found to have invested over $335 million directly to wildlife conservation.
What all of these organizations and efforts have in common is the fact that they are funded either in part or entirely by hunters and trappers.
In 2012 the OFAH, along with our colleagues at Ducks Unlimited and a number of large conservation-based organizations in both Canada and the U.S., hosted the National Fish and Wildlife Conservation Congress here in Ottawa. This brought together 500 scientists, academics, federal, provincial, territorial, and state government representatives from departments on both sides of the border, conservation groups, and others who attended four days of seminars and presentations touching on every aspect of fish and wildlife conservation and every known species in North America. The results of that congress are still being acted upon today, including through the hunting and angling advisory panel, which was established shortly after the congress.
As one of two liaisons for the panel, a group that includes 25 of the largest conservation organizations in Canada and reports directly to the environment minister, we recently appeared before the federal, provincial, and territorial environment and natural resources ministers to speak to some of the same issues before this committee, which were clearly of interest to those ministers. The panel acts as a sounding board for government policies and programs impacting upon natural resources, and makes recommendations that focus on conservation and biodiversity, among others. Examples of current topics under discussion include wildlife diseases, aquatic and terrestrial invasive species, fisheries protection, enforcement, migratory bird regulations, and aquaculture.
This committee is also interested in the role of scientific research in wildlife management. One of the major tenets of the North American model of wildlife conservation is legal access for all and the use of science as the basis for wildlife management. The OFAH, and indeed all of the major conservation-based organizations in Canada, insist that the management of wildlife and fish populations must be based on science. In fact, all the organizations that I referred to a minute ago have created scholarships for university and college students to study fish and wildlife science.
Science does not provide certainty in all cases, but when an observation is made and confirmed many times, it becomes secure. Policy-makers need to understand that uncertainty will always exist, and some variations in scientific determination are to be expected, but it is not a reason to defer action.
Policy-makers must integrate the best available science with social and economic factors when developing policy. This requires collaboration between scientists and policy-makers like yourselves. There is a need to define what a science question is and what a policy question is. Get the science right first, and discuss the political and policy implications afterwards. Governments at all levels and of all political stripes like to say that they are for science-based decision-making when it comes to our natural resources, until scientific consensus leads to a politically inconvenient conclusion, and then governments resort to a backup plan based more upon popular opinion and emotion.
I'll close, Mr. Chair, by noting that we often hear the suggestion that hunting and trapping are of interest only to those living in the rural areas of the country, which quite frankly is bunk. For instance, in the city of Toronto, our organization has 14,170 members who are licensed hunters. This does not include those who hunt but do not belong to our organization. To parse it down even further, in the former city of Scarborough, there are currently 2,477 members of our organization who are licensed hunters, and again, these are just our members. These results are repeated in most urban centres in southern Ontario, serving to emphasize that hunting and trapping may occur in rural hinterlands, but in large measure the participants live and work in urban centres, and these activities cannot be dismissed out of hand as rural issues.
For some, a study of trapping and hunting may not have the same cachet as a discussion on climate change or on carbon taxes, although both of those issues are also of clear importance to the outdoor community. Wildlife does not exist in a vacuum, nor does it exist by accident. Given the contribution of hunting and trapping to our national identity, cultural heritage, and economic wealth, and the fact that hunters, trappers, and anglers put their money where their mouth is when it comes to on-the-ground conservation of our natural resources, I am very pleased the committee has taken the time to look at these issues.
Again, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I thank you for the opportunity to appear here this morning.