February 10, 2003

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First USFWS National Fisheries Conference - FWS Vision for the Future

Conserving America's Fisheries FWS Vision for the Future

   The USFWS hosted the first National Fisheries Leadership Conference in Washington, DC, January 20-24, 2003. The conference drew over 500 fisheries program leaders from federal, regional and state agencies and NGOs conservation organizations - to exchange ideas and to talk about the program's new Strategic Vision that is designed to lead America's fisheries program into the 21st century.


   Major speakers included Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Service Director Steve Williams and the recently appointed the new Assistant Director for Fisheries Dr. Mamie Parker.


   The Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council was invited and participated in the proceedings. Opening the conference, FWS Director Williams said: "The USFWS has a proud record of more than 130 years in fisheries and aquatic resource conservation. As Director, I am keenly aware of the need for a renewed commitment from the Service in conserving these valuable resources. Despite our proud heritage, we have become increasingly convinced of the need for greater support and resources if we are to be successful in meeting the challenges of our critical role in fisheries and aquatic resource management and conservation.


   The Service is currently undertaking the task of describing the future role of its Fisheries Program in conserving this Nation's aquatic resources. I realize that the Service has undertaken planning exercises in the past. What is fundamentally different about this current effort is the development of a collaborative strategy with the Sportfishing and Boating Partnership Council and its Fisheries Steering Committee. This Steering Committee represents perspectives from a wide range of fisheries and aquatic conservation interests. This is an effective and powerful partnership that has worked well over a number of years, and I look forward to building on it as the Service strengthens and revitalizes its Fisheries Program.


   The pride and passion of our Fisheries Program employees are clearly evident. They have carried us to where we are, in spite of difficult times. The Service has much to be proud of in our leadership in fisheries and aquatic resource conservation. Resolving real and perceived issues and revitalizing the Fisheries Program are among my highest priorities."  


A summary of the USFWS "Fisheries Program Vision for the Future" follows.

   The vision of the USFWS (Service) and its Fisheries Program is working with partners to restore and maintain fish and other aquatic resources at self-sustaining levels and to support Federal mitigation programs for the benefit of the American public.  Implementing this vision will help the Fisheries Program do more for aquatic resources and the people who value and depend on them through enhanced partnerships, scientific integrity, and a balanced approach to conservation.


   The Nation's fish and other aquatic resources are among the richest and most diverse in the world. These resources, and the recreational, commercial, and subsistence opportunities they provide, have helped support the Nation's growth by providing enormous ecological, social and economic benefits. Surveys conducted by the Service show that recreational fishing contributed more than $35 billion annually to the American economy in 2001 alone. An economic analysis conducted independently by the American Sportfishing Association in 1996 showed that recreational fishing's overall economic impact to the economy was $108.4 billion, including 1.2 million jobs and $28.3 billion in personal income.


   Fish and aquatic resources are particularly important to the Nation's Native American communities which rely upon healthy, sustainable natural resources to meet subsistence, economic, ceremonial, religious, and medicinal needs.


   The Fisheries Program of the Service has played a vital role in conserving and managing fish and other aquatic resources since 1871. Today, the Fisheries Program is a critical partner with States, Tribes, other governments, other Service programs, private organizations, public institutions, and interested citizens in a larger effort to conserve these important resources. The Nation's fish and other aquatic resources are among the richest and most diverse in the world.


   These resources have helped support the Nation's growth by providing enormous ecological, social and economic benefits. Despite efforts by the Service and others to conserve aquatic resources, a growing number are declining at alarming rates. Loss of habitat and invasive species are the two most significant threats to the diversity of aquatic systems. One-third of the Nation's freshwater fish species are threatened or endangered, 72 % of freshwater mussels are imperiled, and the number of threatened and endangered species has tripled in the last 20 years. Clearly, there is increasing urgency to identify and implement actions that will reverse these alarming trends before it is too late.


   In order to better conserve and manage fish and other aquatic resources in the face of increasing threats, the Service worked with partners to refocus its Fisheries Program and develop a vision. The vision of the Service and its Fisheries Program is working with partners to restore and maintain fish and other aquatic resources at self-sustaining levels and to support Federal mitigation programs for the benefit of the American public.


   To achieve this vision, the Fisheries Program will work with its partners to:

►Protect the health of aquatic habitats.

►Restore fish and other aquatic resources.

►Provide opportunities to enjoy the benefits of healthy aquatic resources.

   In July, 2001, the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council (SFBPC) was charged by the Service to convene a

steering committee representing perspectives from a broad array of stakeholders in fish and aquatic resource conservation to work with the Fisheries Program during the development of a new blueprint for the future. This provided partners with a unique opportunity to be engaged before the strategic vision was drafted. It was also unique because the Fisheries Steering Committee included representatives from the Service, along with partners and stakeholders.


   In January, 2002, the SFBPC Fisheries Steering Committee provided the Service with a set of consensus recommendations on the Fisheries Program's role in the partnership effort to conserve the Nation's fish and other aquatic resources. This report, entitled "A Partnership Agenda for Fisheries Conservation," along with the earlier SFBPC hatchery report, "Saving a System in Peril," were keystone elements in developing the Fisheries Program's strategic vision. Using these two reports and working collaboratively with partners, the Service has better defined its role in conserving and managing aquatic resources across the country. This strategic vision discusses where the Fisheries Program is today, where it needs to go in the future, and why it is important to get there. To move forward and be successful in this role, the Fisheries Program must be solidly supported, backed by sound science, and grounded in dynamic partnerships.


   The Fisheries Program consists of almost 800 employees nationwide, located in 64 Fishery Resource Offices, including a Conservation Genetics Laboratory, 69 National Fish Hatcheries, 9 Fish Health Centers, 7 Fish Technology Centers and a Historic National Fish Hatchery. Together, these employees and facilities provide a network that is unique among Federal agencies, State and Tribal governments, and private organizations in its broad on-the-ground geographic coverage, its array of technical and managerial capabilities, and its ability to work across political boundaries and take a national perspective. It also brings to the aquatic conservation table the only Federal hatchery system, with extensive experience culturing more than one hundred different aquatic species.


The Fisheries Program and its partners recognize that they need to continue working together to identify actions that need to be initiated or expanded to achieve shared management goals, and then to address these needs or "gaps." The Fisheries Program and its partners also recognize that responsibilities for managing and conserving fish and other aquatic resources are shared, and success is usually contingent on partnerships that cut across jurisdictions and link all stakeholders and partners. Resource objectives and Federal, State and Tribal roles have also shifted over time.  


   Where once the Service focused primarily on restoring and managing game species, its conservation mission has expanded, and today includes non-game and endangered species. Just as important, the Service and its partners know that the opportunities, challenges, and needs facing aquatic resources exceed budgetary resources, as well as Federal authorities and responsibilities.

Consequently, the Fisheries Program will use five criteria in deciding what activities, opportunities, and issues to address for each of the seven priority areas set out in this strategic vision. Current and potential actions will be evaluated against the following criteria, and partners will be consulted as key decisions are made that affect the direction of the Fisheries Program.


   The Service will weigh potential actions by:

►The strength of Federal authority and responsibility;

►The extent to which our efforts will complement others in the fisheries and aquatic resource conservation community;

►The likelihood that our efforts will produce measurable resource results;

►The likelihood that our efforts will produce significant economic or social benefits; and

►The extent of partner support.


   The Service will also ensure that actions taken by the Fisheries Program will be consistent with strategic plans being developed by the Department of the Interior and the Service as a whole, and that Fisheries Program actions will help achieve performance targets laid out in those plans. The Fisheries Program's strategic planning effort is proceeding parallel to the strategic planning efforts being conducted by the Department and the Service. These planning efforts have been closely coordinated to ensure agreement and consistency among the three levels of management.


   The Service is re-committing to its role as a partner in conserving America's fish and other aquatic resources. In some cases, the Fisheries Program will lead; in others, it will facilitate or follow. In all cases, the Fisheries Program will focus its efforts and activities on what it is best positioned to contribute based on its unique resources and capabilities, recognizing that sound science and solid partnerships will continue to be the key to aquatic resource stewardship.


 Working with its partners, the Fisheries Program has identified seven areas of emphasis with associated goals, objectives, and actions to focus on in the future. In some cases, these actions reflect a reaffirmation of current activities; in other cases, they reflect some change in those activities. In a few cases, the actions reflect a new activity for the Fisheries Program. Many of its current activities support these goals and objectives, and there will be some opportunities to refocus and change within existing resources. However, the scope and speed with which this blueprint for the future becomes reality will depend on the level of support and resources that are available to the Fisheries Program.


   The seven focus areas that the Fisheries Program will take actions to emphasize are:

►Partnerships and Accountability;

►Aquatic Species Conservation and Management;

►Public Use;

►Cooperation with Native Americans;

►Leadership in Science and Technology;

►Aquatic Habitat Conservation and Management; and

►Workforce Management.

National Fisheries Program Targeted for more $$$

Bush to ask for $8 million increase for hatcheries to improve species restoration and recreation

   Interior Secretary Gale Norton told 500 delegates to the first National Fisheries Leadership Conference on January 22 that "help is on the way" for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 69 national fish hatcheries and that President Bush will seek a 16 % increase - $8.1 million - in the system's budget for 2004.


   "The proposed budget increase will help to recover imperiled fish species, increase recreation opportunities for anglers, eradicate invasive fish populations and repair aging infrastructure at fish hatcheries across the nation," Secretary Norton said.


   The conference was the first for a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program that traces its roots to the U.S. Fish Commission, established in 1871.  It was called principally to unveil the Service's "Conserving America's Fisheries -USFWS Vision for the Future", which will be a blueprint for the fisheries program for the new century.


   Norton told the conference that she was impressed by the work on the program's Vision document because she considers it "a clear illustration of the guidance I believe is necessary for everything we do at the Department of the Interior.  I am pleased you used what I call the 4 Cs communication, consultation and cooperation, all in the service of conservation."


   "Hatchery managers have labored to come up with a strategic plan that has convinced the Office of Management and Budget that it is time to increase your funding," Norton told the conference at their Washington meeting. "Now it is going to be up to you to follow the strategic planning and thinking you have done, with follow-through and results."


   The Vision document is an outgrowth of an effort that began in 1999, when the Service asked the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council, a federally chartered advisory group to the Interior Secretary, to offer recommendations about the role and mission of the National Fish Hatchery System.  The Council, composed of representatives from state and other federal agencies, Native American tribes, conservation organizations, private industry and academia went on to complete a second set of recommendations for the entire fisheries program.


   "The Fisheries Program is the oldest conservation effort in the federal government, and as Director Steve Williams reminds me, it began with a simple premise: keep fish in our rivers and streams," Secretary Norton said. Norton gave special attention to recreational fishing, noting that of the $108 billion that Americans spent on wildlife-related activities in 2001, $35 billion came from fishing.


   Norton reminded the conference that too often in the

past, performance measures were not part of the mix for federal programs and that goals were not clearly

articulated and things not always well managed. 


"Today, we have a president and vice president who both like to fish and who understand fish stories and battles.  That same fisherman president had brought a new direction with him, a direction based on the fact that he is also a president with a masters in business administration and understands performance measures and the bottom line," Secretary Norton said.


With a third of the nation's freshwater fish threatened or endangered Norton said she is sympathetic to the work that the Fisheries Program and the Service are doing.  "FWS Director Steve Williams understands and shares your work and your vision and so do I.  I have every faith in your ability to accomplish your vision and your goals.  And in your ability to work with your partners to restore habitats and move fish populations toward recovery, to battle invasive species and improve fish passage."


The following is a breakdown of the $8.1 million proposed increase:

National Fish Hatchery System

The budget request for 2003 was $35.7 million. The president will ask for $40.8 million in the 2004 request.  Increased funding will be used to implement additional priority recovery and restoration tasks prescribed in approved Recovery Plans and fishery management plans, and increase recreational fishing opportunities through enhanced restoration activities. 


Operations (+$5.0 million)

The Service will use $1.6 million to implement 25 projects addressing hatchery recovery objectives, $2.5 million to implement 32 projects that address restoration/recreation objectives, and $0.9 million to implement 16 projects that address applied science and technology.   


Maintenance (+$3.0 million)

Efforts will largely center on bringing critical water management structures back into proper operational condition, improve the hatchery system's aging infrastructure to good and fair operational conditions to meet fishery management and recovery plan requirements, and implement 16 high priority deferred maintenance projects.

Aquatic Invasive Species

Funding to control the spread of aquatic invasive species will be increased by $1.0 million, from $4.7 million to $5.7 million.  Sample projects include: conducting risk assessments to evaluate at least two new non-native species that threaten aquatic populations and habitats (the snakehead fish was done in 2002; the bighead and silver carp will be done in 2003), and working with state, federal and local partners to develop and implement a management plan to address the continued spread of Asian carp species.

USFWS Announces New Assistant Directors

   U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams announced Dr. Mamie Parker as Assistant Director for Fisheries and Habitat Conservation, replacing Cathleen Short, who is retiring.  He also announced a new Assistant Director position for Federal Aid grant programs.


   Dr. Parker, Regional Director in the Northeast Region since 1999, is an avid angler who began her career with the Service in 1978 at the Fish Health Laboratory, Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin.  Her extensive career with the Service has also provided her with experience in wetlands permits, Federal construction, endangered species and Partners for Fish and Wildlife programs.


   "Her advancement in the Service reflects her breadth of achievement and experience as a fish and wildlife biologist in

the field and three regional offices, and her dynamic and inspiring leadership," Williams said.  "I look forward to having Mamie join me in the Washington Office in the coming months."


   Williams also announced the creation of a new Assistant Director position for Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration as provided in the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs Improvement Act of 2000. No selection has yet been made for this position.  The new Assistant Director will be responsible for managing the Service's Federal Aid programs that provide millions of dollars in excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing tackle and related products to state fish and wildlife agencies for wildlife conservation.


   These proposed assignments are within the Senior Executive Service and subject to review and approval by the Interior Department's Executive Resources Board.

USFWS Announces Management Changes

   The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced proposed changes in assignment for members of its top leadership team in several Regional and Washington headquarters offices.  All of the positions involved in the proposed changes are part of the government's Senior Executive Service. The assignments are subject to review and approval by the Interior Department's Executive Resources Board.


The proposed new assignments are as follows:


   David B. Allen, currently the Service's Alaska Regional Director in Anchorage, to Regional Director of the Service's Pacific Region in Portland, OR.  The Pacific Region includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California,   Nevada, Hawaii, and the U.S. Trust Territories in the Pacific Ocean.


   Anne Bagley, currently Regional Director in Portland, to Executive Director of the Regional Ecosystem Office in Portland, which is responsible for implementing the Northwest Forest Plan.


   Rowan Gould to Regional Director in Anchorage for the Alaska Region. Gould is currently the Deputy Regional Director in Portland, Oregon.


   Dan Ashe, currently Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, to Senior Science Advisor to the Director.  In this

new position, he would be responsible for strengthening the Service's science programs, one of the top priorities of Director Steve Williams.


   William F. Hartwig, currently Regional Director for the Great Lakes - Big Rivers region in Twin Cities, Minnesota, to Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System in Washington, D.C.  This position directs policy and budget development for the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, including land acquisition.


   Robyn Thorson to  Regional Director in the Great Lakes-Big Rivers Region (Region 3), which includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota,  Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  Thorson is currently Assistant Director for External Affairs in Washington, D.C.


   Thomas O. Melius to Assistant Director for External Affairs in Washington, D.C., with responsibility for the agency's Congressional and public affairs, Native American relations, and training through the National Conservation Training Center.  Melius is currently Assistant Director for Migratory Birds and State Programs.


   Paul R. Schmidt to Assistant Director for Migratory Birds and State Programs.  Schmidt currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Director in that program, which oversees migratory bird management and the Federal Aid in Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration programs.

Bush Seeks $1.3 Billion Budget for USFWS

Second Major Increase in Two years

   President Bush's almost $1.3 billion 2004 budget request for the USFWS represents a continuing commitment to protecting America's natural resources and supporting community partners in conservation.


   Among the key features of the budget package is a $25.5 million increase to care for the National Wildlife Refuge System, and strong budget increases in such areas as Fisheries and Migratory Birds help to round out a package that will benefit the Service, its many partners, its trust lands and species, and the American public.


   The budget provides $15 million in increased funding for The Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife, North American Wetlands Joint Venture, and Coastal & Refuge Challenge Cost-share programs.


   The Fisheries program is to receive almost $104 million, an increase of nearly $9 million over the 2003 budget to help implement the program's "Vision for the Future."   This figure includes $5 million to carry out priority fisheries recovery and restoration activities.


   "Sport fishing is important to millions of Americans, not only as a recreational activity but as a family experience that strengthens links between children, parents and grandparents and, in doing so, helps guide future generations of our citizens," said USFWS Director Steve Williams. "The Fisheries program's 'Vision for the Future,' with the backing of this Presidential budget request, will help the Service better support the sportfishing community, which has historically been one of this agency's most

valuable and valued partners.  It also will help efforts to restore imperiled species."


   Increased funding is also requested to meet the needs of the Endangered Species program and to address its growing litigation-driven workload - a total of more than $5 million more than last year, an increase of $1 million for the control of aquatic invasive species, $2.1 million to combat invasive species on refuges,


   The requested budget for Law Enforcement is almost $ 53 million, a $1 million increase, with a $500,000 increase for Manatee protection efforts in Florida, to decrease the risk of boat strikes and enforce waterway speed zones on refuges and in sanctuary areas.


   The budget for Land Acquisition is reduced by $29.6 million, reflecting the Administration's commitment to properly care for the lands already in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The budget includes $246.2 million for five Service grant programs that facilitate State and local conservation efforts, $50 million to continue the Landowner Incentive and Private Stewardship programs, $87 million request for the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, and an additional $2 million for Habitat Conservation Plan planning assistance, and is an increase of almost 300% above the 2000 funding level.


   The Service is following the President's management agenda for improving management and performance.  The budget embodies this progress by focusing resources, and providing budget increases to successful programs like the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program.

NASCAR Driver, Ward Burton, To Promote National Wildlife Refuge System

   Last year, Ward Burton crossed the finish line in first place at the 2002 Daytona 500 in his yellow and black #22 CAT car. This year, driver and primary sponsor Caterpillar Inc. are teaming up outside the racetrack to place wildlife conservation in victory lane.


   Along with the USFWS, Burton and representatives from Caterpillar will be working together to promote wildlife

conservation and education, and to highlight the importance of the National Wildlife Refuge System, which will celebrate its 100th birthday this March.


   "The National Wildlife Refuge System would not be what it is today," said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams,  "Without dedicated partners concerned about wildlife conservation who were willing to put forth a great deal of hard work."

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