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UP's and down's of our fishing world...

There is a ton going on in the angling community and while some of it is very vivid and in our face here, others may not be so much so I thought I would share some of the struggles and silver linings of yesterday. First, here at home in Washington: Some wildlife lands and boat launches face closure under state budget shortfall The statewide revenue shortfall is threatening a host of important state services, including state wildlife lands and water-access sites. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Department of Natural Resources and State Parks and Recreation Commission are collaborating to support proposed legislation that would create a recreation land user fee to supplant lost state General Fund support and maintain public access to state recreation lands. The proposed measures, Senate Bill 5622 (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=5622&year=2011 ), introduced by Sen. Kevin Ranker, and House Bill 1796 (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=1796&year=2011 ), introduced by Representative Kevin Van De Wege, are still under consideration in the Legislature. The proposed bills would create an access pass-known as the Discover Pass-for use of all state recreation lands managed by WDFW, State Parks and DNR. The Discover Pass would cost $30 per year or $10 for a single day pass. Those purchasing certain fishing or hunting licenses could purchase a $7 annual pass for use solely on WDFW lands and water-access sites. Campers who pay for a State Parks campsite would not be required to purchase the Discover Pass and volunteers who provide 24 hours of service to any of the state agencies could receive a complimentary pass. The Discover Pass is vitally needed to avert steep reductions in wildlife land operations and recreational access. It would provide an estimated $5.5 million for WDFW recreation lands in the coming biennium, an identical amount of support for DNR recreation lands, and $60 million for State Parks. The proposed Discover Pass revenue allocation reflects what is needed simply to maintain current operations. The reduction proposed in the Governor's budget comes on the heels of other budget reductions. Since 2009, WDFW lands operation and maintenance has lost one fifth of its state funding. As General Fund support has declined, WDFW has been forced to turn to hunting and fishing license revenue to maintain recreational access. In essence, hunters and fishers are subsidizing other, non-paying users of WDFW lands. The Discover Pass proposal is consistent with the Governor's suggestion that agencies adopt a user-pay model to maintain services that can no longer be supported through the state General Fund. The Discover Pass would allow all users-hikers, campers, equestrians, wildlife watchers, boaters and others-to share the cost of maintaining and operating state recreation lands. Since the final outcome of the Discover Pass proposal is uncertain, lawmakers have asked WDFW what recreation land and boat launch service reductions would be necessary if the proposal is not successful. In response, WDFW has developed criteria to guide the determination of permanent or seasonal closures on wildlife areas and water access sites that may become necessary if funding solutions are not found. Closure means that land management-such as toilet pumping, garbage removal and weed management-would not occur and that the areas would be closed to public access. Final wildlife area and boat launch closure decisions would depend on the state budget that is adopted by the Legislature, and would be subject to a public process and consideration by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. The criteria for assessing wildlife areas and water-access sites for potential closure follows the Governor's "user pays" direction, and is aimed at maximizing fishing and hunting use, since recreational licenses revenues currently provide the majority of WDFW's land operating funds. The criteria to evaluate wildlife areas for possible closure are: Level of weed management required, based on current conditions and the presence of agriculture or ranching activity Percentage of critical wildlife habitat Cost of maintaining recreational access Amount of annual use for licensed activities such as fishing, hunting and trapping Amount of other types of recreation Access control (number of roads adjacent to or passing through the wildlife area) Annual maintenance cost per acre Restrictions associated with grant funding or contract obligations The criteria to evaluate boat launches/water-access sites for potential closure are: Maintenance costs (grading, toilet pumping, ramp upkeep, vandalism clean up, enforcement) Amount of annual use for licensed activities such as fishing, hunting and trapping Amount of use for non-licensed recreation Presence of access-control points (gates) Availability of alternate, nearby public access sites Restrictions associated with grant funding or contract obligations Contemplating possible closure of public recreation lands is a difficult and troubling prospect. We are working closely with our sister agencies and state leaders to try to avert such closures. Back east some good news: Stripers Forever NC - CCA NC and the Coastal Fisheries Reform Group recently introduced HB 353 into the NC legislature. HB 353 would make red drum, speckeled trout, and striped bass game fish in NC. These three species could be taken only by rod and reel and the sale of the fish would not be permitted. Additionally the bill would compensate commercial fishermen for three years of lost revenue on these species. The bill has passed its first reading in the House and has been assigned to “ Committee On Commerce and Job Development Subcommittee on Business and Labor”. Stripers Forever strongly supports this bill and applauds the CCA and CFRG for getting this action underway. The bill will be discussed in committee this Wednesday, and will be voted on at that time. If passed, it will then be sent to the House floor for discussion and a vote. Our next hurdle is to win the vote in this committee, and therefore we need to email and call every one of these committee members encouraging them to vote for the bill. Here are the members, their email link, and their phone numbers. Please forward this to your email list and encourage them to do the same. It does not matter if these folks are your personal representatives or not. They are now responsible for considering this bill, and they ALL need to hear from ALL of us tonight or tomorrow at the lastest! Lastly from Trout Unlimited in AK, this is AWESOME!! Fellow Bristol Bay Supporter, Thanks to you, over the past three weeks the Environmental Protection Agency heard from more than 60,000 sportsmen and women, salmon-lovers, commercial fishermen, Alaskan natives, and other outdoor enthusiasts asking them to protect Bristol Bay. Your hard work is paying off. The EPA recently took a great first step by initiating a comprehensive scientific review of the issue. We commend them for initiating this process. But the work to protect Bristol Bay is not done. The foreign mining companies proposing the Pebble mine are applying constant pressure with their high-powered lobbyists to push this mine through. We need your continued support to protect Bristol Bay's fish, wildlife and people from Pebble and the roughly 10.8 billion tons of mine waste it would create. I like ending on good notes, fine casts and hearty laughs.
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