HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — $394 billion… that is the breathtaking amount of money Americans spent on hunting, fishing, and wildlife recreation in 2022, according to a survey recently released by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Approximately, every five years since 1955, the USFWS has prepared a detailed report reflecting the passion Americans have for the outdoors and the tremendous economic impact wildlife has on our national economy.

More than 14 million hunted, nearly 40 million fished, and an astounding 148 million participated in wildlife-associated recreation.

While somewhat modest gains were documented in fishing and hunting, wildlife-watching numbers soared to a staggering 148 million participants nationwide.

And, of that total $394 billion in wildlife-generated expenditures… $250 billion-plus was attributed to wildlife watchers, which includes observing, photographing, and feeding.

A 2012 report from Texas A&M University revealed ecotourism in the Rio Grande Valley generated an economic surge of $463 million, a figure that is undoubtedly much greater now as the study was conducted more than a decade ago.

Butter-flying and birding are stellar examples of the effect wildlife watching has on the Valley, as southernmost Texas is perhaps the best place in the nation for enthusiasts.

The 30th annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival underway right now attracts some 500 participants and reports an economic impact in Harlingen alone of $1,673,000.

While wildlife watching generates a substantial economic bounce, fishing in the bay and Gulf are also important revenues, and the annual Texas International Fishing Tournament registers some 1,200 anglers that have a direct spending impact in excess of $2 million.

Hunting also brings big bucks to South Texas, and statewide A&M reports an economic boost of $4.3 billion annually from deer hunting alone.

However, as economically valuable as hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching are to the economy, intrinsic benefits of time well spent in the outdoors are perhaps of even greater value.