Say what you will about the movie and the acting, but one thing “The Big Year” showed the nation is that bird watching is a hip, mainstream activity and not just something that grandparents enjoy.
Indeed, bird watching is the fastest growing outdoor recreation in the New York and across the country, and one that contributes billions each year to state and local economies.In New York alone, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, 3.8 million people watch birds and other wildlife, and generate approximately $1.6 billion in ecotourism revenue annually!
Even though this economic impact is happening, we have found that many local businesses and tourism agencies are not aware that people are traveling to their communities and spending money just to watch birds, and are not actively working to promote and enhance those opportunities.
To show this economic trend first hand to businesses and municipalities across the state, through my TogetherGreen Fellowship, we’re launching the “Birds Mean Business”campaign.Thanks to TogetherGreen, on the heels of International Migratory Bird Day we’ve created calling cards (see photo opposite) that birders will be leaving behind with local businesses, Chambers of Commerce and elected officials in the places they visit to watch birds in the coming year.
The purpose of these cards is twofold:
Through this initiative, we’re encouraging birders and other wildlife enthusiast to make sure they stop in local shops and eateries to support the local businesses of the communities they visit to watch birds. When checking out, we want them to leave this card to let those businesses know what brought them to their store.
In addition to local businesses, we’re also urging birders to leave these cards with tourism promotion agencies, Chambers of Commerce and offices of local elected officials so they know why people are visiting their Town, launch ecotourism promotional initiatives to keep them coming back and do more to protect the habitats and places that attract them there.
In the coming months, we really hope these cards make an impact and trigger more awareness to the economic potential of bird watching and the need to protect open space!For more tips on how you can help show that Birds Mean business visit: ny.audubon.org/ecotourism, or contact me at Smahar@Audubon.org.
Sean Mahar is the Director of Government Relations and Communications for Audubon New York, the state program of the National Audubon Society, and a 2010 TogetherGreen Fellow. His fellowship was focused on building a campaign to secure long-term dedicated wildlife conservation funding in New York, and the “Birds Mean Business” initiative is an important step in that process to show the economic returns from protecting wildlife species.