South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Boosts Participation in Outdoor Recreation
South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks (GFP) focuses on connecting people of all ages to the outdoors. This mission aligns with South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem's Second Century Initiative, created to enhance wildlife habitat while getting families involved in outdoor recreation.
In lockstep with the governor's new initiative, GFP continually looks for strategies to increase engagement and participation by making it easier for people to access state hunting, fishing, and park resources.
Facing a decline in participation throughout South Dakota, the agency's recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) strategies have been elevated to a department-wide priority. The agency has long been a user of geographic information system (GIS) technology for data management, field mobility, and analysis for its aquatics, wildlife, and parks.
When Esri released the new ArcGIS Solutions for Recreation License Outreach, agency staff were interested in how it could help them make sense of licensing data through visualization of trends and patterns. The solution laid the groundwork for new campaigns, which would help GFP better engage highly targeted audiences and generate new interest in outdoor program offerings.
Decreasing participation in outdoor activities presents a serious challenge for natural resources and recreational agencies everywhere, and GFP is no different. Given that hunting and fishing licenses serve as primary sources of revenue, the declining numbers directly impact the agency's ability to implement and maintain important outdoor recreation and conservation programs. This downward trend also damages and deteriorates the health of local economies, job growth, wildlife habitat restoration, preservation of cherished species, sustained history and traditions, and much more.
The agency's core offering is unlimited licenses, which has seen a steady decline year over year. Fishing has dropped by 5,000 participants per year from 2016 to 2018 and by 10,000 participants in 2019 alone. Small game hunting has decreased by nearly 16,000 participants from 2009 to 2018.
To revitalize critical numbers, agency staff needed to gain a better understanding of the downward trends along with potential countermeasures. Unfortunately, they lacked an adequate process and workflow to analyze data from their licensing system.
"We didn't have any baselines or data collection or analysis systems to provide a comprehensive, statewide picture of the situation," said Taniya Bethke, R3 coordinator and education division staff specialist. "We were using different evaluation and data reporting systems for the outdoor program numbers, which meant there was no common view, shared understanding, or real collaboration from department to department.".
GFP staff turned to the ArcGIS Solutions for Recreation License Outreach to help aggregate, manage, and, analyze foundational data from their license permitting systems. This new approach enabled users to generate critical statistics and visualize trends spatially to make sense of the vast amount of licensing data.
These new capabilities enabled agencywide teams to glean insights and actionable intelligence from the numbers they were seeing, empowering them to create and execute highly effective recruitment, retention, and reactivation outreach campaigns.
"We needed to enhance our offerings for outdoor families by driving the elevation of R3 in our state to a department-wide concern," said Bethke. "With ArcGIS, our agency's emphasis has shifted beyond just education and outreach. It now includes securing new licensing opportunities; performing evaluations of our regulations; providing additional access for hunters and anglers in the field; and ensuring that resources, such as loaner equipment, are made available to them in the right location."
Kyle Kaskie, GIS program specialist, was the first to discover how the ArcGIS Solutions for Recreation License Outreach could provide the tools they needed to overcome their challenges. He presented the plan to the agency's leadership team, outlining their newfound understanding of how the licensing numbers directly relate to specific demographic and geographic information.
"The agency's management team was very pleased with what we were able to bring to the table and expressed interest in moving forward with the solution," said Kaskie. "After the initial presentation and adoption, we have seen a great deal of insightful questions and input relayed to our development team. That has helped the R3 application continue to grow and mature, bringing even more value to our foundational data."
For the first time ever, GFP staff can visualize license data on smart maps and dashboards in real time, discovering answers to questions they didn't know to ask before.
This was a direct result of the location intelligence provided by the ArcGIS Solutions for Recreation License Outreach. New purchases or renewals, illuminated as hot spots on smart maps, can be sorted and viewed by location, demographic, or specific outdoor activities through Esri's ArcGIS GeoEnrichment Service. Agency staff and partners can now provide specific recreational programs, such as hunting or fishing learning courses, by pinpointing potential participants in localized target markets.
"Having a geographic component to our program licensing trends visualized on one easily accessible map or dashboard is a game changer," said Bethke. "We can now look at a smart map and, in one glance, identify which county my team needs to focus on in 2020 by license type."
The new solution gives Bethke and her team the ability to be intentional with data collection and strategy.
"Gaining new insights from the data—not just viewing the numbers but seeing the causal patterns and trends—is a critical advantage we are using to strengthen our agency's marketing and promotional campaigns, driving engagement; awareness; and, ultimately, greater participation in outdoor recreational activities," she said.
In addition to helping to guide more effective work for the agency, ArcGIS Solutions for Recreation License Outreach also drives new efficiencies through smarter workflows and streamlined interagency processes. For example, when agency personnel discover a new opportunity for urban fishing development or a supported hunt in a specific location—illuminated on their smart maps—they can use that data-driven intelligence for more effective outreach efforts.
Location intelligence also enables campaign managers to follow up with well-informed messaging to targeted audience segments in a precise area—informing them that specific program offerings of interest are available. They can create tailored educational messaging to help drive people to a nearby location where they can learn a new skill they have indicated interest in.
"With the R3 solution, our agency is able to determine what the most effective outreach campaign will be," said Bethke. "That wouldn't be possible without the GIS-powered tools to identify potential program participants in a specific community, based on geospatial and demographic data, visualized on smart maps and apps."
The road ahead
With the ArcGIS Solutions for Recreation License Outreach displaying licensing data in a geospatial context, the agency will be able to perform even deeper geospatial analysis—on more detailed and localized audience segments—whether they be existing or potential participants.
This new approach will also help address previously identified needs of a specific type of outdoor participant, based on the participant's stage in the adoption process of new outdoor recreation activities.
Stronger geospatial analysis produces actionable location intelligence. This new level of data-driven intelligence informs effective communication strategies and channels for outreach campaigns, which will resonate with targeted audiences, resulting in increased engagement and participation. Newfound successes will enable the agency to continue to grow, evolve, and implement outdoor programs.
"We want users to be better informed with access to licensing data that we can lay out interactively—filtered by activity, location, or year—to pinpoint exactly where new opportunities are located," said Ross Scott, division staff specialist and GIS coordinator. "We will be able to provide that data instantly to specific users, who can bring that information to commission or executive team meetings or to brief the governor, for example."
These new capabilities are sure to lead to a bright future for outdoor recreation across the state of South Dakota.
"This is something that has never been done before by the GFP," said Scott. "No other state agencies are doing anything like this. We are setting the standard here for licensing. The sky's the limit when it comes to availability and use."
With the R3 solution, our agency is able to determine what the most effective outreach campaign will be. That wouldn't be possible without the GIS-powered tools to identify potential program participants in a specific community, based on geospatial and demographic data, visualized on smart maps and apps.