Political Pressure Apparently Halts Federal Hatchery Closings, For Now
Etta Pettijohn, The Fishing Wire
It appears pressure brought to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) by some members of Congress as well as the media has halted another effort by the agency to shutter its National Fish Hatcheries.
As both The Outdoor Wire and The Fishing Wire have been reporting in recent weeks, the FWS has kept its official plans safely under wraps, but when its apparent intentions were revealed by inside sources and news agencies, several members of Congress intervened in an attempt to block its efforts.
To many, it appears the agency desperately wants to shed its responsibility to the mitigation stocking business, and it is hoped by most within the fishing industry a long-term solution can be found.
Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander has a longstanding record as an advocate for hunting, fishing and practical conservation of natural resources. He's especially been there when it comes to protecting federal hatcheries (in his state) in the past three years, including brokering a three-year agreement in 2012 to get the Tennessee Valley Authority to help fund the two federal hatcheries in Tennessee.
Besides those facilities threatened in Tennessee, targeted hatcheries in South Dakota, Georgia, Arkansas, and Kentucky, provide jobs and economic benefits, and further the objectives of providing outdoor recreational opportunities for all U.S. citizens.
Alexander's office on Wednesday Sept. 18 announced it had reached an agreement with Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell to halt any action on a "hatchery review" to be released next month, which was expected to recommend the closure of the mitigation hatcheries. Jewell also ordered the FWS to seek "longtime solutions."
"I appreciate Interior Secretary Jewell heeding the concerns of Tennesseans and others around the country who depend upon these hatcheries to replace trout that are destroyed by federal locks and dams," Alexander said. "Members of Congress spoke out, and the Department of the Interior responded. Now, the nearly 900,000 Tennesseans and visitors who buy fishing licenses in our state can once again have faith that Tennessee's trout fishing will remain some of the best in the country."
Sen. Alexander's release continued: "If federal locks and dams are going to destroy fish, then the federal government has a responsibility to replace them.
"Hopefully in coming weeks we'll be able to report on true progress to keep these facilities open and continuing to provide recreational opportunities and the economic benefits that enjoyed by all citizens."