Friday, March 22, 2002

Birding on Federal Lands

A one-stop-shopping guide to recreational opportunities on some 2,177(!) individual parcels of land managed by eight different Federal agencies is available at Recreation.Gov. You can search the site for any of 23 pre-selected activities. The 6 most frequently listed recreational activities?

Fishing (1437 hits)
Wildlife Viewing (1337)
Hiking (1321)
Picnic Areas (1294)
Camping (1116)
Boating (1133)

Birding, the fastest-growing and most popular outdoor activity in the United States today, is not among the pre-selected activities. But then again, birding is one type of Wildlife Viewing, so maybe I should be pleased that Wildlife Viewing ranks so high. But would that be too naive of me? I wondered. Which prompted me to do some more looking.

Each of the 2177 individual sites has a Web page associated with it, including some brief text describing the site and the types of outdoor recreational activities that are available. Recreation.Gov allows you to search for specific key words or phrases that appear on these Web pages. Here's what I found when I searched for variations on the word bird:

bird (431 hits)
birds (341)
birding (18)
birdwatching (15)
bird watching (10)
birdwatcher (7)
birder (7)
birders (4)
bird watcher (2)

Okay, so about two-thirds (1337) of the Federal sites offer Wildlife Viewing opportunities, but only about 40 percent of those (something on the order of 400) have anything to say about birds. Makes one wonder just how serious these Federal agencies really are about catering to the growing throngs of birders, doesn't it? There doesn't seem to have been any conscious effort to reach out to the birding community.

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