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WASHINGTON, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Nearly 38 percent of Americans hunted, fished or watched wildlife last year, reversing decades of decline in outdoor recreation, the Interior Department said on Wednesday.
A 2011 survey shows that the number of U.S. hunters had gone up 9 percent in five years and anglers were up 11 percent, the department said in a statement.
"This is great news since hunters and anglers have long been the driving force behind conservation efforts in America," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a conference call with reporters.
The survey has been held every five years since 1955 and the number of people involved in outdoor recreation has dropped for 30 years, he said.
Salazar said the upturn resulted in part from efforts by federal and local governments and conservation groups such as Ducks Unlimited to spur Americans to get outdoors.
The survey of 48,627 people showed that nearly 38 percent of Americans took part in wildlife-related recreation last year, an increase of 2.6 million from the 2006 survey.
They spent $145 billion on gear, trips and other purchases, such as licenses and tags.
In 2011, 13.7 million people, or 6 percent of the population 16 years old or older, went hunting, the department said.
More than 33 million people 16 or older fished last year and more than 71 million people engaged in wildlife watching. (Reporting by Ian Simpson; editing by Andre Grenon)