Welcome to our first column about Big Rock’s active role in outdoor advocacy. Our goal in adding this section is to bring you updates on shooting sports and fishing activities that may have an effect on your business, as well as point out upcoming activities that could have a bearing on your future in the outdoor industry.

This first one will be a “catch up” column with quick updates on a couple of activities in the first part of 2013, and will end with a note about upcoming events on our calendar. If you have an interest or comments on any of these upcoming events, we welcome your input.

For those readers who did not attend our Big Rock Sports West Show this year, Big Rock along with key manufacturers in the shooting sports industry held a silent auction benefitting the Youth Shooting Sports Alliance (YSSA). This was the third straight year Big Rock has partnered with Steve Miller, Managing Director at YSSA. This year we raised $10,000 for young shooters across the country, making a three-year total of over $40,000 for Steve and YSSA to use to purchase firearms for their loaner program. YSSA loans these out to organizations that are committed to teaching our young people how to properly use and hunt with a firearm. For more information on YSSA, contact Steve at proud2hunt@aol.com.

April 2013 marked the annual spring Government Affairs meetings with the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). This year’s meeting was held at the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. If you’ve never been to the IGFA headquarters and museum, the next time you are in South Florida be sure to check it out. These Government Affairs meetings are held several times a year, and focus nationally and regionally on saltwater fishing and freshwater fishing issues and trade and commerce legislation potentially affecting our retailers and Big Rock Sports. I serve as Chairman of the Saltwater Government Affairs Committee, and at this meeting we were concerned with several key issues potentially affecting our customers in this region, specifically the proposed closures and restrictive access to Key Biscayne National Park (closing 10,500 acres for a marine preserve is proposed) and restricting access to areas in Everglades National Park in South Florida. Our committee met with representatives of the National Park Service (NPS) and the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to voice our concerns and opposition to these proposed sanctuaries. Although early in the process, there is reason for optimism that a more practical size and use of the reserve will be achieved.

I’d also like to share some industry statistics with you that were provided by Rob Southwick from Southwick and Associates during his Sportfishing in America presentation at IGFA Headquarters. Although individually we may be a small part of this nation’s economy, collectively we in the sportfishing community represent an important part of America’s future.

–       60 million people fish in the US over a five-year period—20% of the total population

–       33 million anglers fish annually, 45 million if you include youths

–       $47.7 billion in retail sales annually—double that of all professional sports combined (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, etc.)

–       828,000 jobs—sportfishing employs more than McDonald’s or UPS in comparison

–       Collectively we pay over $15 billion in taxes each year

–       Sportfishing contributes $1.5 billion toward conservation—the largest contributor in the US

–       Regionally, in 2013 there will be 23 million fishing trips in Florida alone, with 120 million trips in total on the East Coast. Things are definitely looking up!

In the August/September issue I will update you on the National Shooting Sports Congressional Fly-In on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC; Our Nation’s Fisheries Conference, reviewing the reauthorization of the Magnuson–Stevens Act, which is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in the US; and the Outdoor Industry/Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) 2013 Summit, hosted at Federal Cartridge Company in Anoka, Minnesota.