Let them know we're Birders
by Nate Swick
Via Living Bird
The end of the Biggest Week in American Birding, the Ohio bird festival on the shores of Lake Erie, is as good a time as any to touch on the economic impact birders have on local economies. The Biggest Week is a phenomenal example not only because of the way the organizers have sold the businesses of Ottawa County on the festival, and birding, as a driver of tourism, but because those gains have been quantified in a very real manner. Businesses know when the birders come and birders are really good about making sure their presence is felt in the community.
Beyond continental hotspots and big festivals, however, indicators of "the birder effect" are less precise. Seeing enormous potention there, Sean Mahar of Audubon New York, assisted by a generous donation from Audubon's TogetherGreen grant program, is trying to change all that.
Concerned that many businesses and communities are not aware of the fact that people travel some distance specifically for opportunities to bird, and worse, that those communities are not working to promote and protect to those opportunities, Mahar has created a simple business card wherein birders can include some basic information and leave the cards at businesses they frequent. These, in and of themselves, are not unique - many festivals have encouraged similar participation - but businesses are also encouraged to contact Audubon New York so that spending can be tracked across the state.
"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, and spending money in, their communities just to watch birds, and are not actively working to promote and enhance those opportunities," said Sean Mahar, director of government relations for Audubon New York. "This is happening at a time when, in this economic downturn, more people are traveling locally and looking for opportunities to recreate closer to home."
Thanks to the TogetherGreen grant, Mahar has printed 100,000 cards and is offering them for free to any New York birder.
Those looking to participate can find more information here.