Dora Ann Hatch | 1/28/2014 11:16:11 PM
Each year Americans spend $646 billion on outdoor recreation. That sounds like a lot of money, but when you think of all the people you know who engage in hunting, fishing, birding, wildlife viewing, camping, hiking and canoeing, the numbers become more believable. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, over six million American’s have jobs related to outdoor recreation.
A survey released by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in September of 2012, showed that Louisiana outdoor recreation increased by 40% from 2006-2011, second only to Alaska. Statistics from the Outdoor Industry Association for Louisiana suggest that outdoor recreation is responsible for $15.1 billion in consumer spending; $4.6 billion in wages and salaries; and $1.1 billion in state and local revenue.
These statistics may surprise you, but when you think of the visible traffic on our highways during hunting season you probably have noticed trucks traveling through the area with four-wheelers loaded or trucks pulling trailers loaded with off the road vehicles and camping gear. Outdoor enthusiasts travel to Louisiana as an outdoor destination. Many of these enthusiasts have invested in second homes or stay in camp grounds to pursue their outdoor activities. They also own or lease land to pursue hunting. They buy groceries and eat in our restaurants. They contribute significantly to our local economies.
The increase in outdoor recreation can be profitable for landowners engaged in agriculture. These landowners can provide venues for bird watching; boating and swamp tours; camping, educational tours/visits; fishing; hiking and packing trips; hunting; working dog trials/training; skeet shooting; and youth camp stays just to mention a few are listed in the Agritourism Limited Liability Law passed in 2008.
Participation in these and other related activities comes with risks for the landowner and participant. The Agritourism Limited Liability Law was passed by our legislature to limit the liability of agritourism professionals for injuries that occur through no fault of the agritourism professional. The law also provides that those who seek protection must complete a plan of operation, showing how they will handle inherent risks to keep their visitors safe. The LSU AgCenter’s role is to review the plan and work with the landowner to remove as much risk as possible from the operation. The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry is the certifying agency. Unlike other states, the certification process in Louisiana is free.
A copy of the law, Louisiana Law R.S. 9:2795.5, and an explanation of what it does and does not do, are available online at: www.lsuagcenter.com/agritourism. This site also contains lots of resource materials on agritourism and a list of upcoming workshops. The LSU AgCenter partners with Mississippi State University’s Natural Resource Enterprises program and other state agencies: Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries to provide educational programs on how to take advantage of outdoor recreation.