Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation of People in Outdoor Activities: The Lessons Learned and Challenges Faced By the Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Community

Symposium
ROOM: HCCC, Room 23
SESSION NUMBER: 26
 
Participation rates in many outdoor activities are changing. Demographic changes, competing hobbies, and shifts in popular American culture have all contributed to declines in participation rates of outdoor pastimes. One popular outdoor activity, hunting, has witnessed a loss of more than two million people in the last two decades. Many natural resource professionals will attest that a shrinking population of hunters is an international issue that threatens both the funding of state and federal agency conservation programs, the creation and relationship with concerned constituents, the future of wildlife management and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Currently, conservation resource professionals and the outdoor recreation community are focusing their efforts to strategically increase participation in hunting, angling, boating, and the shooting sports through a national initiative commonly referred to as ?R3?, derived from the recruitment, retention, and reactivation of outdoor participants. These R3 terms describe everything from a specific program to an organization?s entire strategic vision to engage and serve its customers. Through R3, non-government organizations (NGOs), state and federal wildlife agencies and numerous industry partners are working, together, to bolster the future of wildlife conservation in North America. This session will highlight the efforts these partners are taking and discuss opportunities The Wildlife Society, and its members, may engage in the R3 process. From evaluation of efforts to the education of future biologists, R3 presents opportunities for TWS members to engage and this session will highlight those opportunities to ensure the future of wildlife management.

12:50PM Recruitment, Retention & Reactivation – a Conservation Movement That Is Important to Natural Resource Professionals
  Samantha J. Pedder
The way conservation and outdoor recreation is approached in America is changing and the result is a shift in the way natural resources are managed. For many years, conservation has been funded by dollars derived from excise taxes placed on equipment used to recreate outdoors. Now, as participation rates in outdoor recreation shift, so too does the funding mechanisms and management approaches of state and federal fish and wildlife agencies, and a number of conservation non-government organizations. A movement known as “R3” is growing within the profession in response to this shift. The term “R3” refers to the recruitment, retention and reactivation of outdoor participants and through R3 efforts, professionals are reevaluating their approach to managing populations of hunters, anglers, boaters and even target shooters, and seeking new and innovative ways to increase participation. This presentation will present an overview of the growing R3 movement and provide insights to the audience so they may understand and engage in the R3 efforts at the state, regional and national level.
1:10PM Living the Dream of Many Diverse Programs and Uncertain Outcomes – We Need Evaluation
  Matt Dunfee
In late 2006, the Wildlife Management Institute was challenged by the now defunct Hunting Heritage Committee to identify factors influencing the persistent decline in hunter numbers. In response to that challenge, WMI completed a national census of hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) efforts being conducted by state fish and wildlife agencies and sportsmen and women organizations. The objective of this work was to identify the most effect R3 efforts being conducted. Unfortunately, the resulting data showed that not only were these efforts primarily targeting only the children of existing hunters, but only a fraction of these efforts were being evaluated for their effectiveness in creating new participants. Subsequent research on angler R3 efforts provided similar results, showing that less than 10% of annual R3 efforts incorporate evaluation systems capable of determining program outcomes, i.e., the creation of a new participant. These and other studies illuminated a glaring omission in the field of hunter and angler R3; the near absence of data capable of determining the effectiveness and efficiency of efforts designed to create new participants. Consequently, in an era where the focus on increased the participation of hunters, anglers, trappers, target shooters, and boaters may be at an all-time high, the data needed to inform and improve effective R3 initiatives is largely absent. Thus, program administration wishing to know “what works” in R3 are left with few answers. Fortunately, a “culture of evaluation” is beginning to emerge among the practitioners responsible for implementing efforts to increase outdoor participants. If stakeholders are to be successful in halting the downward trend of outdoor participation, they must facilitate and expand this culture of evaluation by treating each R3 effort they implement as a test pilot, incorporating rigorous evaluation, and ultimately altering their approach to maximize the desired outcome (new participants).
1:30PM The Promise and Potential Impacts of R3 Efforts Targeting College Students
  Lincoln Larson; Kangjae Jerry Lee; Nils Peterson; Victoria Vayer; Ryan Sharp; Adam Ahlers; Brett Stayton
Declining participation in hunting is a major concern for state and federal agencies that rely on hunting to achieve wildlife management objectives and generate revenue for conservation activities. As state agencies struggle to recruit hunters through non-traditional pathways, one audience holds particular promise. College students represent an ideal R3 target because over 40% of young adults attend some form of college, they possess a great deal of autonomy relative to younger hunters, experimentation levels for recreation activities peak during college, and new activities explored during college often contribute to individual identities later in life. Our recent work at universities in SC and KS confirms this promise, showing that college campuses provide a deep pool of potential hunters (65% of students hunt or would consider hunting) and could be a rich environment for marketing, communication and programming that recruits new hunters (or hunting advocates) and retains or reactivates those who may contemplate abandoning the activity. Additionally, R3 workshops targeting this demographic attracted a range of diverse participants (including many women and first-time hunters). With growing concerns about the future of hunting and limited resources to support R3 efforts, college campuses might be a great place to start. Our team is currently pursuing this opportunity with support from an AFWA Multistate Grant. We are working with state agencies and public universities across 13 states to characterize the hunting-related perceptions and behaviors of college students and to implement and evaluate R3 programs aimed at students without previous hunting experience. Ultimately, our project should reveal best practices for cultivating and sustaining positive perceptions of and participation in hunting among college students across different geographical and cultural contexts. In this session, we will discuss preliminary results of these studies as well as next steps and future opportunities for collaboration.
1:50PM Ecology of Hunter R3
  Dr. Jared Duquette
There is an urgent need to conserve hunters, as is done for wildlife. Like wildlife conservation programs, hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) practitioners need reliable knowledge to maximize efficacy of R3 programs. Research has helped R3 practitioners begin to understand and adapt to the cosmopolitan psychological, sociological, demographic characteristics of hunters, including relationships to physical resources (e.g., land access). Additionally, R3 practitioners can now readily monitor spatio-temporal trends in metrics of hunting behavior (e.g., churn). Although knowledge and methods of understanding hunter behavior and characteristics continue to improve, guiding adaptive hunter R3 programs using an ecological framework remains an unexplored, but promising, frontier in R3 research. By characterizing ‘hunter ecosystems’ through data-driven research, including relationships among hunter behaviors and realized R3 rates, greater reliable knowledge will be gained to improve the adaptability and efficacy of R3 programs. Additionally, through use of ecological modeling, R3 practitioners can inductively and deductively assess program initiatives and how those actions potentially cascade throughout multiple links (e.g., regulation change to hunter satisfaction) and spatio-temporal scales (e.g., individual to community) within the hunter ecosystem. This presentation will discuss the ‘ecology of hunters’ and associated framework to begin understanding what hunter ecosystems look like and how we can conserve them. Data from hunters in Illinois will be used as a case study to demonstrate this concept.
2:10PM Creation and Implementation of a State-Level R3 Strategy
  Charles S. Evans
Following the steady downward trend in hunting participation in the United States there is an increasing interest in hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) among organizations with a vested interest in wildlife conservation. Given the uniqueness in licensing systems, regulations, access, and species availability between states, creation and implementation of an in-depth R3 strategy is likely to be more effective when focused at the state level. Many states are currently grappling with how to strategically move forward with R3 given the lack of precedent and the vast array of stakeholders in their state with an interest in hunting participation. In Georgia, the formal R3 initiative began in December 2015 with the hiring of the first truly cooperative R3 coordinator position in the United States. Since inception, we have developed a strategic approach in the form of a state-specific plan, broken down barriers between organizations to facilitate a cooperative approach, and piloted nontraditional strategies. This talk will detail the process we went through to develop our state-level strategy and the lessons we learned along the way.
2:30PM Refreshment Break
3:20PM Panel Discussion
 

 
Organizers: Thomas Decker, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Hadley, MA; Samantha Pedder, Council To Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, Washington, D.C.; Zachary Lowe, Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation. Dundee, Illinois.
 
Supported by: TWS Hunting, Trapping and Conservation Working Group; US. Fish and Wildlife Service; Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports; Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation; Archery Trade Association; National Shooting Sports Foundation

Symposium
Location: Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland Date: October 8, 2018 Time: 12:50 pm - 5:00 pm