New! U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue funding to support Arizona’s sport fish stocking program
Agency issues finding of “No Significant Impact” after Environmental Assessment process
Posted Sept. 2, 2011 - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) as part of the Environmental Assessment of its proposal to continue to fund, in part, the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s (AGFD) sport fish stocking program over the next 10 years.
The FONSI decision means that FWS can continue funding to support AGFD’s hatchery operations and fish stocking activities that provide recreational opportunities for anglers.
As part of the Selected Alternative, a Conservation and Mitigation Program has been developed. The Conservation and Mitigation Program will implement actions to avoid, offset or reduce environmental impacts of the stocking action and ultimately contribute to conservation and recovery of native species. The program’s development was a coordinated effort between the FWS’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR), its Arizona Ecological Services Office, and AGFD.
The decision came out of an Environmental Assessment process that analyzed three alternatives which provided a range of recreational opportunities and impacts to biological resources.
After review of public and agency comments received on the Draft Environmental Assessment, WSFR, the Arizona Ecological Services Office and AGFD chose to modify the Proposed Action. The modifications to the Proposed Action include the removal of one previously proposed stocking site and the elimination and/or substitution of some species proposed for stocking at some sites. The modified Proposed Action has been identified as the “Selected Alternative.”
Under the Selected Alternative, funding will support stocking of sport fish at 166 sites in selected rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs, ponds and tanks in the state. It will also support continued operations and maintenance of five AGFD hatcheries that rear sport fish (primarily trout) for stocking. The actions in this alternative are the most comparable to Arizona’s current stocking program.
You can also view these documents on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's website at www.fws.gov/southwest/federal_assistance/index.html.
Background on the process and why it's necessary
Hundreds of thousands of Arizona residents and nonresidents take advantage of the state’s recreational fishing opportunities each year. Based on 2006 numbers, there were 4,156,000 angler use days (AUDs) of fishing in Arizona, with a total annual economic impact of $1.3 billion (Southwick Associates 2007). Arizona Game and Fish estimates a resident demand of 6 million AUDs through 2012, with some growth anticipated in nonresident demand.
Under the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950, FWS has the authority to provide federal funding to state wildlife agencies for management and restoration of sport fish, as well as public use and benefit from those resources. Funding is provided on a match basis through the WSFR program. Sport Fish Restoration funds through that program come from a federal excise tax on certain fishing equipment and a portion of motorboat fuel tax revenues. In July 2011, Arizona received about $7.9 million in Sport Fish Restoration Act funds. Although the amount varies from year to year, about $2.5 million was allocated to sport fish stocking and hatchery operations.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's WSFR program proposed to fund, in part, the Arizona Game and Fish Department's sport fish stocking program for a 10-year period, from Sept. 1, 2011 to Aug. 31, 2021.
Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), federal agencies are required to analyze potential environmental effects of any action they propose to implement, approve, or fund. Because Arizona Game and Fish receives federal funds used to support its stocking program (along with state funds from the sale of licenses and trout stamps), the proposed action to to provide funding to the stocking program went through an Environmental Assessment (EA) process.
Preparation of the EA occurred over a three-year period during which considerable consultation, public and agency outreach, and analysis was conducted. Scoping activities were undertaken by the Service and the Department in 2008. The agencies sought early public input for development of the alternatives, and comments received during the scoping process assisted in the development.
On March 10, 2011, the Service and the Department made available for public review a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) on the Service's proposal to continue to provide Sport Fish Restoration funds to the Department to continue the state’s long-standing program of stocking fish for public recreational opportunities, and for hatchery operations and maintenance. This draft EA was a part of the federally required NEPA compliance.
”Support of sport fisheries is an important part of the work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Steve Robertson, Chief of the FWS division of Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program, at the time the draft EA was released. “By working with the state we are able to help provide recreational fishing opportunities while being mindful of the need to protect and restore native fish populations.”
“In a way, we do a balancing act,” said AGFD Fisheries Chief Kirk Young. “On one hand, Game and Fish wants to provide the public with enjoyable fishing opportunities, which create a huge economic benefit to the state. Yet on the other hand, as a wildlife agency, we also need to consider and manage for the needs of nongame and threatened and endangered wildlife, including native fish. Our proposed conservation and mitigation measures enable us to do that.”
Additional background on stocking activities and recreational fishing in Arizona
Each year, the Arizona Game and Fish Department stocks more than 3 million fish in Arizona’s lakes, rivers and streams for anglers to catch – mostly rainbow, Apache, or other trout, but some warmwater species such as largemouth bass and channel catfish as well.
Recreational angling in Arizona totaled 4,156,000 angling days in 2006, creating a statewide economic impact of more than $1.3 billion annually.
Arizona’s natural fish fauna historically consisted of 36 species of fish, only a few of which were historically sought for sport fishing, which continues to be true today.
Since the early 1900s, the Arizona Game and Fish Department and other agencies have supplemented recreational angling opportunities by stocking state waters with sport fish species.
Fish stockings have evolved over the past 100 years or so to meet growing needs of anglers in Arizona. Now the Arizona Game and Fish Department considers a wide range of factors when determining where and when to stock fish, including biology, angler use, partnership commitments and needs, native fish impacts and social demands.
Although most of the trout species caught in Arizona likely come from fish hatcheries, most of the warmwater species in the state – especially those in the larger impoundments such as Roosevelt Lake – come from natural reproduction.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s mission includes conservation, and for decades the Department has been a national leader when it comes to native species management efforts.
“We continually strive to do what is right for native fish and all other wildlife species in the state, while also balancing the recreational needs of the public,” said Fisheries Chief Kirk Young.
The federal funding apportioned to Arizona is authorized under the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950, commonly referred to as the Dingell-Johnson Act and Wallop-Breaux amendment to the Act. It provides federal aid to state wildlife agencies for management and restoration of sport fish.
These Sport Fish Restoration funds are derived from a federal excise tax at the manufacturing level on certain items of sport-fishing tackle, fishing equipment and motor boat fuel – a user pay, user benefit program.
Since 2000, the state of Arizona has received over $77 million in Sport Fish Restoration funds.