Published since 1946
Initiative becomes fish-or-cut-bait action plan
The National Fish Habitat Initiative is now the National Fish Habitat Action Plan. This unprecedented multi-partner Plan to protect, restore and enhance fisheries and aquatic habitat, got a green light from state fish and wildlife directors and others last month during the 71st North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, in Columbus, Ohio.
The Plan began as an idea of an ad hoc group convened by the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council. The idea gained momentum as fisheries experts around the country outlined a science-based foundation for documenting habitat and fish population trends, establishing habitat-improvement priorities, and tracking and reporting results of partnership efforts. With the help of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) and in collaboration with federal, state, regional and local partners in both the public and private sector, the Initiative was transformed into an Action Plan. AFWA will now take the lead in administering the plan in collaboration with an unprecedented number of diverse partners.
A Special Session at last month's 71st Conference highlighted the foundation of the Action Plan for North American natural resource leaders. Leading experts from the fisheries sciences and management community presented compelling reasons for the Plan and for joining the effort to improve the continental fisheries and their habitats.
William Taylor, of Michigan State University, presented case studies of current water resource challenges and the promising path the Action Plan offers for addressing them, using "fish as our indicator, and using knowledge building, efficiency and collaboration as our tools." Ryan Broddrick, of the California Department of Fish and Game, provided a critical consideration of the Plan by California, where collaborative management of aquatic resources often is driven by conflicts associated with water use and land use. Broddrick's agency has endorsed the Action Plan as a means of expediting improved aquatic resources throughout the Golden State. Doug Austen, of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, announced the imminent approval of the Action Plan by state fish and wildlife agency directors: "This Plan now sets the stage for significant new investment and collaboration in fish habitat conservation across the country." Mamie Parker, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, heralded the Action Plan as a model of cooperative conservation. She noted that, as support for this effort grows, the investment and work of its partnerships are expected to double the number of assessed habitat miles, eliminate hundreds of fish passage barriers, and restore critical stream and shoreline miles and wetland acres to benefit fish populations and improve water resources. "One hundred years from now," stated Ms. Parker, "we hope our great grandchildren will say that we got it right_that the National Fish Habitat Action Plan was an historic benchmark in fish and aquatic habitat conservation, and that we changed for the better the way conservation is done in this country."
Jim Martin, of the Berkley Conservation Institute, concluded the Special Session with an appeal to other agencies, organizations and businesses "to make a real difference for fisheries in America," by becoming a partner in the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, helping set regional and national priorities, and assisting completion of the most accurate and comprehensive status and trends report on fish habitat ever developed.
Kathryn Boyer of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service invited participants to an open house where they could learn more about the Action Plan and become a partner. She highlighted the strength of the Plan in its partnerships, which now include private land managers, industry, government, tribal, academic and conservation interest and individuals committed to focusing their attention and resources on fish habitat improvements where most needed.
Although there is no explicit date for completion of the objectives of the Action Plan, its partners recognize that time to address fish and fish habitat issues is dwindling, and aggressive implementation of the Plan is paramount to its success. On April 24th, there will be the public/media rollout of the Action Plan, at Casting Call on the Potomac River in Washington DC_an annual event that emphasizes important fishing-related issues and initiatives to Congress and the Administration. This summer, the National Fish Habitat Board will be selected to oversee implementation of the Action Plan. And during the next year, a major expansion of new regional fish habitat partnerships is anticipated. For more information about the Action Plan and partnership opportunities log on to http://www.fishhabitat.org/.