Early in our work we assessed the economic impacts of nature tourism in key LRGV sites such as Santa Ana NWR, Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park, and the Sabal Palms sanctuary near Brownsville. At that time (at least 15 years ago) we estimated an annual impact of $125 million from nature tourism in South Texas. A number of people were surprised by that figure, and questioned its accuracy. How could birders and other nature tourists contribute so much to that economy?
It was passed from one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.
The day went from flute to flute,
went dressed in vegetation,
in flights which opened a tunnel
through the wind would pass
to where birds were breaking open
the dense blue air -
and there, night came in.
A bird person may live next door, date your daughter, or drink a beer with you after work. You won’t know. Bird people are anonymous and invisible, remaining transparent unless outed by their binoculars, bird feeders, or the I Brake for Birds! sticker on the Isuzu in the driveway. Bird people are everywhere yet nowhere. Bird people are everyone yet no one.
I am a bird person.
The American Birding Association (ABA) is stumbling through one of its cyclical deconstructions. Leaders are being ousted, budgets are being thrashed, and blame is being heaped. You would think that people who watch (rather than kill or maim) birds would be placid, investing their emotional selves in an adoration of nature. Think again. This recreation is constructed around honor (and its kin, ego), and around trust in one’s word. Hunters and anglers drag their game to the scale. Birders ask to be believed. In birding, most of what you see are for others the ones that got away.
There is a new page on the BirdSpert blog – Avitourism Research. There I have provided links to many of our research reports and surveys, as well as to the macro-level surveys such as the NSRE, the USFWS, and the Outdoor Foundation. Soon I will post a crib sheet of important bullet points, as well as PowerPoint with voice that can be used by you to argue about the importance of birding and bird conservation. Stay tuned.