Kansas has a natural means to a better economy – the wildlife it offers hunters, anglers, bird-watchers and other ecotourists.
According to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, the state annually sees $401 million or more in hunting-related spending, $211 million from fishing, and $10.7 million in nonresident license sales for hunting and fishing. Many wildlife-related businesses are advertising out of state, recognizing that Kansas has the deer, migratory birds, fish and natural beauty to draw in nonresidents and their money in large numbers.
Such spending translates into income for landowners and small businesses – a boon for many of the rural counties of the state that have seen population declines in recent years.
It falls to the Statehouse, though, to provide the funding to not only promote and enable this activity but also help protect the state from poachers.
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Kansas’ 62 game wardens, down from a full staff of 71, don’t sound like enough, especially compared with Oklahoma’s 120 and Missouri’s 160. The staffing issue is another reason state legislators cannot defer raises for state employees indefinitely.
As state coffers and rural communities benefit, state leaders must ensure there are enough game wardens and other wildlife management resources to go around and keep this growth industry growing.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman