Cumberland Times-News

October 20, 2012

Md. hunt-fish marketing plan in the works

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— Gov. Martin O’Malley is being asked to fund a marketing initiative that will bring more hunters and anglers to Maryland, sell more hunting and fishing licenses and, thus, put the Department of Natural Resources on firmer financial ground.

Based upon the 2008 passage of the Maryland Tourism Promotion Act, he has the authority to do so.

The request comes from The Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation and is endorsed by numerous organizations including the Allegany-Garrett Sportsmen’s Association.

Other supporters include the Maryland Bowhunters’ Society, Maryland Bass Nation Federation, Trout Unlimited/Mid-Atlantic Council and the Chesapeake Guide Association.

Not only will more hunt/fish licenses be sold once the world finds out about Maryland’s outdoor opportunities, according to Bill Miles, vice chairman of the MLSF, but a variety of businesses such as restaurants, hotels, sporting goods shops and even airlines will get more customers.

Here is how the MLSF wants it to come down.

When the General Assembly meets mid-January through mid-April, the state’s FY 2014 budget will be created. A block of $3,573,000 in tourism tax revenue will be available for distribution. It is from this money that the marketing initiative could be put together.

“... we offer our help to the O’Malley administration to make it happen, not only for the benefit of DNR, but to the state’s overall economy,” MLSF said in a press release.

According to a national report, there are 521,000 outdoorsmen in the state who contribute $900 million each year to the Maryland economy and one of every eight residents either fishes or hunts. The organizers say the average annual expenditure by each outdoors person is $2,407.

Foundation chairman David Sutherland calls the plan a bold one and says that sportsmen’s groups must work with state and local tourism units to attract more anglers and hunters to the state.

“Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources is vitally dependent on revenues derived from fishing and hunting license sales. Those sales are down to the detriment of fisheries and wildlife management,” Miles said.

A bill that would have established a $15 increase for the cost of a hunting license was killed in the General Assembly this past session.

Here are some numbers provided by MLSF.

• Sportsmen support more jobs in Maryland than Legg Mason and T. Rowe Price, Inc. combined (14,000 vs 8,400).

• Annual spending by Maryland sportsmen is more than the combined revenues of CNSI, RWD Technologies and Force 3 — three of the fastest- growing information technology firms in the state ($900 million vs. $544 million).

• Spending is also more than combined cash receipts for broiler chickens and greenhouse nursery plants — the state’s top two agricultural commodities ($900 million to $890 million).

• Maryland sportsmen could fill the stadiums of the Baltimore Ravens and Orioles more than four times (521,000 vs 120,000).

Still, MLSF contends, more anglers and hunters are needed in the state so that modern scientific fish and wildlife management can continue.

Jerry Zembower, who signed off on the project on behalf of the Allegany-Garrett Sportsmen’s Association, said he did so with a caveat.

“We will withdraw our support if any of the money intended to promote hunting and fishing somehow gets used for other types of tourism,” he told the Times-News.

The campaign would be a national one, according to Miles, who said a professional marketing firm would be hired to promote the state’s fin-feather-fur-carapace opportunities.

“We’re talking marlin to grouse to rockfish to crabbing to canvasback hunting in Maryland. Colorado spent a couple hundred thousand on a similar effort to attract elk hunters and got $2 million to $3 million returned to the state’s economy,” Miles said.

Miles said Tuesday that a meeting was being scheduled with the governor’s staff to further discuss the situation.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.