Exploring wildlife recreationists' conservation behaviors and perceptions of state fish and wildlife agencies to inform conservation engagement and support

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


The success of state fish and wildlife agency conservation efforts depends highly on their engagement with wildlife recreationists, ranging from those with consumptive (i.e., hunters and anglers) to nonconsumptive (i.e., birders, wildlife viewers) interests. However, declines in their historic constituent base of consumptive recreationists, coupled with an increasingly diverse and interconnected group of nonconsumptive recreationists, has placed new pressures on state fish and wildlife agencies. Human dimensions research into recreationists' behaviors and perceptions can help these agencies determine how best to serve and involve wildlife recreationists, including developing services that fit their interests, engaging them in conservation activities, and providing them with a suite of funding and support mechanisms to contribute to conservation. Developing this understanding can be complicated though, due to the range of behaviors and perceptions wildlife recreationists have regarding conservation and the role of state fish and wildlife agencies. Given this need to better understand how state fish and wildlife agencies can successfully engage their growing and changing wildlife recreation constituency in order to advance conservation, we investigated the perceptions, behaviors, and interactions of Virginia wildlife recreationists relative to the state fish and wildlife agency, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR). Using a mixed-methods research design, we first looked into the intersection of wildlife recreation identities, to gain a clearer understanding about the implications of individuals who identify as multiple types of recreationists (i.e., consumptive-only, nonconsumptive-only, consumptive-viewers, and comprehensive recreationists). We also used recreation identity to explore how participation in conservation behaviors differs among recreationists. Next, to compare findings from our focus groups and survey, we explored how wildlife recreationist groups (i.e., birders or viewers, hunters or anglers, and multi-recreationists) felt served by a state fish and wildlife agency relative to agency services received by other recreation groups. Lasty, we investigated how recreation groups and level of familiarity with DWR predicted recreationists' future likelihood to financially contribute to the agency via voluntary and user-pay funding mechanisms. Our results highlight the opportunity that wildlife recreationists present for the future success of state fish and wildlife agencies, and the complex conservation challenges these agencies face in engaging with their growing and changing recreation constituencies. Wildlife recreationists are multidimensional in their recreational pursuits, and differ in their familiarity with and perceptions of state fish and wildlife agencies, which has implications for their future support of these agencies. Our findings illustrate the need for state fish and wildlife agencies to develop engagement strategies that provide multiple entry points into and interests in their conservation programs, while also working to enhance agency familiarity among nonconsumptive recreationists, and ensuring that all wildlife recreation groups feel valued in relation to one another.



wildlife recreation, state fish and wildlife agencies, conservation, human dimensions