Federal Trout Hatcheries Funding Update

Hey, everyone…  For those of you that have been following the ongoing struggle to secure permanent funding for our nation’s trout hatcheries, I thought this letter from Leon Alexander (the GodFather of Hatcheries Friends) would interest you…  in a nutshell, we are only OK until October 1st of this year!  Read Leon’s letter below…  as always, we’ll keep you posted!

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This is a response to an article posted on April 16, 2012 in Arkansas News Bureau, News, Sports by Joe Mosby which many people from around the state read and understood that that the AR Hatcheries were fully funded for the coming year.

The article stated “— a top official with the USFWS informed him (Loren Hitchcock AGFC Director) that means of funding the Norfork and Greers Ferry hatcheries had been found.”

The article did indicate that “the word is unofficial”. After contacting the Region 4 District of the USFWS and contacting Senator Pryor, Senator Bozeman and Congressman Rick Crawford’s offices, the statements proved to be inaccurate. The funding for the nine mitigation hatcheries which include Norfork NFH and Greers Ferry NFH, have indeed been funded for the FY2012 which is this year and ends on October 1, 2012.

The total amount of the FY2012 funding is $7.2 million made up of $3.4 million from the USFWS and $3.8 million from the USCOE. The Federal Budget for FY2013 was released on February13, 2012 and contained $4.3 million from the USCOE and $600,000 from the Bureau of Reclamation.

No funding is included from the USFWS or TVA for the nine mitigation hatcheries. This leaves a shortfall of $2.3 million for FY2013. The US Senate and the US House of Representatives are currently holding sub-committee meetings regarding the FY2013 budget. Our AR Congressional Representatives are working with these committees to restore the necessary funding for the mitigation hatcheries.

It is a long and arduous process that takes months to resolve. Last year, the budget was not finalized until Dec. 15, 2011.

Since this is an election year, it is the consensus of our Congressional Representatives that the FY2013 budget will not be finalized until after the November elections.

In the meantime, discussions and meetings are being held to negotiate the reinstatement of the necessary funds for the mitigation hatcheries. This will include the Norfork and Greers Ferry NFH.

As with any federal budget, there will be compromises made and the final outcome is still in doubt until the budget is finalized. However, at the moment, the AR hatcheries are funded through Oct. 1, 2012.

It remains to be determined whether Congress will be successful in restoring the necessary funding for these hatcheries into FY2013. In an update from the Region 4 Director, Cindy Dohner, the message is summarized as “We will meet our obligations under these agreements in FY 2012 and will continue to provide fish to those states in the most efficient and effective way possible. The decision on our FY 2013 budget is far from over.”

There have been a number of meetings regarding the permanent funding solutions that would eliminate this annual crisis. As AR citizens we need to keep in contact with our Congressional Representatives to promote the permanent full funding for one of our most valuable resources.

In a meeting at Gaston’s Resort on May 12, Dr. Stuart Leon, former Chief of Fisheries USFWS, addressed the funding issue for the mitigation hatcheries.

He gave an in-depth summary of the history of the efforts by the USFWS to secure funds from other agencies that were initially responsible for the mitigation issue. He also updated the current status of these efforts. They agree with the above budget numbers. He also encouraged those present to keep in touch with the Congressional Representatives and to write letters in support of keeping the AR hatcheries viable and in operation.

Dr. Leon agreed that our community as well as the state of AR depend heavily on the hatcheries as an economic driver. Thanks to Teresa Van Winkle for arranging this visit and public meeting.

If anyone would like to support the hatcheries by writing a letter to our AR Congressional Representatives, you can do so by going to our website (http://www.norforkhatcheryfriends.org) and downloading the letters we have prepared in support of the hatcheries.

Simply download the letter which is already addressed, sign it with your address and mail it.

We have letters addressed to both our Senators and all four of our AR Congressmen.

Your support in this matter is appreciated.

Leon Alexander

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