Proposed Budget Cuts Threaten Fish Hatcheries and State Economies

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Proposed Budget Cuts Threaten Fish Hatcheries and State Economies

Nine federal fish hatcheries will be impacted by budget cuts....

Proposed budget decreases at nine federal fish hatcheries could have a devastating effect on already fragile economies in states where these facilities are located.

State fisheries managers in affected areas are asking anglers to contact their U.S. congressmen/women immediately to have the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reconsider shutting down mitigation stocking.

The President's FY 2012 Budget calls for a reduction of $6.3 million to the USFWS fish hatchery mitigation operations, while its overall funding would be increased by almost $48 million. Mitigation activities will be cut or ended unless full reimbursements are negotiated from federal water development agencies like the Corps of Engineers and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The proposed funding cuts would become effective Oct. 11, 2011.

According to the USFWS, the COE has requested $3.8 million to fund mitigation fish production in 2012. The Service said it would continue to work with the Corps and other partners to determine equitable reimbursable agreements to satisfy these responsibilities. But, without these agreements severe cutbacks in mitigation projects are certain.

In 2009, mitigation facilities provided almost 13 million fish and nearly 16 million eggs to states for stocking into coldwater streams and tailwater fisheries. These states depend on license sales to anglers to fund projects, and the number of anglers, in turn, determines the amount of federal excise tax money is granted to each state for fisheries projects.

Fishing is a major contributor to economic health where these stocking activities occur, as anglers buy tackle, licenses, food gasoline, lodging and more. For the U.S. government to severely curtail or altogether end mitigation stocking makes little sense to state fisheries managers and anglers, since these hatcheries generate more than $157 million in retail expenditures by anglers. The total economic output generated by angling expenditures in the southeast alone is more than $298 million annually, outweighing the operating costs of these facilities.

Established by Congress in 1871, the National Fish Hatchery System's original purpose was providing mitigation-of-species agreements to replace fish lost from dam construction, and to expand recreational fishing opportunities.

The agency operates 70 fish hatcheries nationwide, which are also used for propagation of threatened and endangered species. Since the agency is also charged with recovering these species, limited funding for all programs has led to a tug of war for funding dollars.

In 2008 Congress directed the Service to work with other federal partners to obtain full reimbursement for the mitigation projects.

While the COE has committed funding, negotiations are still underway with TVA, and no money has been committed yet.

The TVA operates dams for hydropower and flood control along 47 reservoirs in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky. The Corps operates dams nationwide for the same purposes.

The urgency of the situation can be seen in the statistics from Tennessee, home of two of the federal hatcheries slated for cuts. Last year, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency stocked about 2.2 million trout across the state, 64 percent of which came from the Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery.

About half of the 1.3 million trout raised at the Dale Hollow hatchery last year were stocked in 11 waterways controlled by the TVA, according to Andrew Currie, manager of the Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery.

State wildlife management agencies also benefit from fish and eggs reared at these hatcheries, but cash strapped budgets will prevent states from contributing enough to make up for the loss of federal hatchery stocks. Some of the states have hatcheries, but again, these can't produce the numbers the USFWS provided.

Six of the nine dams targeted for cuts provide fish for the southeastern U.S.

According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife study, trout fishing in the Southeastern U.S. generates $107 million annually in direct spending and another $212 million in related spending for a total economic impact of $319 million.

"Jobs created as a result of these hatcheries are in rural areas where unemployment is much higher than the national average. Many of these jobs are in small businesses that provide lodging for anglers and retail sales of fishing reels, lures and rods," reads a 2001 report prepared by the Southeastern Region of the USFWS.

According to Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Director Ed Carter, "Dale Hollow's production is more than 90 percent mitigation, with about 60 percent TVA mitigation. So, if the cuts come down as they are now lined up, Dale Hollow NFH faces either closure or about a two-thirds cut in funding. The former would leave Tennessee short the entire 1.3- to 1.4 million currently produced for Tennessee. The latter would leave Tennessee short around 960,000 fish; but the loss in TVA waters would be devastating, since no fish would be produced by Dale Hollow for those waters."

The nine hatcheries nationwide targeted for cuts are:

Provides 10 million trout and salmon annually for stocking into North Dakota waters. Largest walleye and pallid sturgeon producing hatchery in nation (produces 60 percent stocked nationwide). Stockings account for more than 70 percent of the walleye harvested in North Dakota.

* Economic Impact- $184 million, creation of 1,709 jobs, generated more than $7.6 million in federal tax.

NEOSHO NFH-Fort Snelling, MO
Oldest federal fish hatchery in operation, it was established in 1888, and rears rainbow trout for stocking in Lake Taneycomo. A 9,200-square foot visitor center hosts more than 45,000 visitors annually.

Economic impact-The hatchery faced potential closure in the 1980s, but more than 20 years later the construction of a new visitor center is expected to generate local economic benefits through enhanced tourism revenues and associated employment opportunities. The total economic output for trout production at Greers Ferry NFH amounts to $68.4 million every year.

In 2000, Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery reared almost 2 million trout, and stocked fish in more than 30 different fisheries in Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado, the largest one being the Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

Economic Impact - 185,000 angler days valued at more than $9.25 million per year.

Produces approximately 1 million trout annually. In cooperation with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, fish are stocked into 115 different public fishing waters in the state. The trout-fishing program in Kentucky relies solely on the production of the Wolf Creek NFH.

Economic Impact- The direct economic benefit of fish produced at the Wolf Creek NFH to the Kentucky economy is $50 million annually. The indirect benefit was estimated at over $75 million in 2007.

The hatchery annually distributes 324,000 catchable-size rainbow trout and an additional 460,000 rainbow trout fingerlings.

Economic Impact-More than $32 million annually. In addition, approximately 38,000 visitors tour the hatchery annually.

Supplies 754,560 rainbow trout to the White River Basin area of Arkansas, the Blue and Illinois rivers of Oklahoma, and the Little Red River on hatchery property. Also provides 30,000 -- to 2,600 pounds of brook trout for stocking.

Economic Impact- Annual economic impact of trout production at Greers Ferry NFH is $45.7 million. The facility also hosts more than 50,000 visitors annually.

NORFORK NFH-Mountain Home, AR
Produces trout for tailwaters below Norfork, Bull Shoals (White River) and other dams. Rears rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout for stocking in eastern Oklahoma and the White River Basin in Northern Arkansas.

Economic Impact-For each $1 spent of budget expenditures, $5.86 tax revenue was generated through Bull Shoals Reservoir.

Established in 1897, rears approximately 10 million rainbow trout brood stock and sends eggs to 16 states and several Indian tribal hatcheries. In addition the facility grounds house the Unicoi County Heritage Museum and the Clinchfield Railroad Museum. These draw more than 50,000 visitors annually.

Economic Impact-In 1999 dollars, Erwin produced an economic impact of about $418,600 for the local area. It was indirectly responsible for about 500 jobs, with an employment income of $116,800, and produced $55,200 in tax revenue.

Provides rainbow, brown, lake, and brook trout for mitigation stocking in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, and under a cooperative agreement with state wildlife agencies produces fish for stocking in some of the southeastern U.S.'s most popular and productive tailwater fisheries. These include the Caney Fork, Elk, Hiwassee, Clinch, Little River, Tellico, South Holston, and Watauga river systems in Tennessee, and COE and TVA projects in Alabama and Georgia. The hatchery hosts more than 45,000 visitors yearly.

Economic Impact- Sales of food, gas, lodging, rods and reels, and bait and tackle amounted to nearly $19 million, providing employment for almost 400 people, with nearly $10 million in wage and salary income. Local and federal coffers receive more than $3 million annually from taxes generated by DHNFH. For each taxpayer dollar budgeted for rainbow trout production, $32.20 in retail sales and $36.88 in net economic value (consumer surplus) are generated.

According to Bart Carter, TWRA Region IV regional fisheries manager (eastern Tennessee, where the majority of trout are stocked) "We don't have the capacity to raise that number of fish, so these cuts will have a significant impact on our programs." He said the hatcheries are interconnected to all the state's stocking efforts, and these efforts could be devastated if federal hatcheries are forced to cut back on production, or close.

"We will be trying to formulate plans in case these cuts are made, to decide where to drop areas traditionally stocked," said Carter, "And decide how to disperse fish so that it will minimize the impact to the state's anglers."

"This takes the livelihood away from the people who have given their lives to all the rivers bring to the communities," said William "Howard" Malpass, chairman of the Southern Council, Federation of Fly Fishers, a 10,753-member organization. "Not only will the hatcheries be impacted, but thousands of people will be affected. These people are our neighbors, friends and family. The rivers and lakes provide tangible livings to the people, companies and towns they come in contact with!

The people who are the Fly Fishing Guides, Fly Tying material producers, Boat House owners, small stores, grocery stores, gas stations, boat builders and many thousands more!"

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