Supporting Wildlife Recreationists in Virginia: Survey report to inform the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources' Wildlife Viewing Plan
In support of its mission to conserve and manage wildlife populations and habitat for the benefit of present and future generations; connect people to Virginia’s outdoors through boating, education, fishing, hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing, and other wildlife-related activities; and protect people and property by promoting safe outdoor experiences and managing human-wildlife conflicts (DWR, 2020), the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has embarked on an “R3 initiative” to increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation of participants in hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, boating, and wildlife viewing. In an effort to improve engagement with Virginia’s wildlife recreationists, DWR commissioned social science research to better understand the activities, attitudes, and experiences of hunters, anglers, birders, and other wildlife viewers in the Commonwealth. Surveys and focus groups conducted as components of that study provided insights that can improve R3 planning for all four recreation groups. This report focuses on survey findings that will inform the development of a ten-year Wildlife Viewing Plan, the agency’s first comprehensive plan for engaging with and supporting Virginia recreationists who participate in wildlife viewing. While DWR’s relationships with hunters and anglers are long-standing, an analysis conducted by agency staff and stakeholders at an R3 workshop in August 2017 identified limited engagement between wildlife viewers and the agency as a threat to DWR’s ability to achieve its R3 objectives and overall mission (DWR, n.d.).The analyses in this report can help the agency make strategic and data-driven decisions about how to better support the recreation activities of this growing constituency, understand how they relate to those who identify as other recreation types, and engage viewers in supporting DWR’s conservation work.