You’re standing knee deep in the stream. You can see the fish out in front of you. And they are rising. It’s a pretty steady slurp and you know what they’re taking.
You’ve been doing this long enough to know that a 16 Green Drake will do the trick. Your experience tells you not only what to fish, but how to fish it. There’s a formula at work here – the color of the fly, the size of the fly and where to cast to get your best drift. Yes, the familiarity with the water and the fish are invaluable.
You open your fly box. Nothing. It’s completely empty.
Turning around, you look toward shore. The group of people behind you is pondering your plight, discussing it among themselves. They’ve taken your flies, emptied the box, and are poring over the replacements, throwing those they don’t think will work and adding some others. Perhaps you even see the Green Drakes tossed aside, discarded for some size 2 muskie streamers. It’s up to the group to rebuild your fly box and what you’ll fish with. They’ll take a vote when their done, before handing you back the box.
You look more closely at the group. There aren’t any wader-wearers there. You can see a CPA, a social worker, an attorney and, maybe over in the corner, an insurance broker. You fishing fate is in their hands.
That’s not how you fish and it’s not how Pennsylvania should protect its endangered species and special trout waters. But that is, in essence, what House Bill 1576 and it’s companion Senate Bill, No. 1047, would do – strip the state’s Game Commission and Fish and Boat Commission of their independence for making decisions about threatened and endangered species and classification of Wild Trout Streams.
Additionally, the decision-making process would be turned over to an Independent Regulatory Review Commission and the state Legislature – neither of which has the scientific expertise to determine the fate of our fish, wildlife and their habitat.
It would begin by de-listing all of the species currently listed as threatened or endangered in Pennsylvania – 28 animals and 63 fish, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates – and starting all over again. Unless those species already fall on a federal list or could make the cut through the law’s commission and legislative approval process within two years, they would lose all protection. The Fish and Boat Commission would lose the ability to list Wild Trout Waters without the approval of the IRRC and the legislature.
It’s not as if the Game Commission and Fish and Boat Commission have made these decisions lightly; it’s not a willy-nilly or hit-and-miss proposition. Both commissions have rigorous and scientific-based (and peer-reviewed) criteria considered before granting protection to a species. Currently, the Fish and Boat Commission uses stringent criteria to designate a trout stream, including the number of trout, biomass and the size classes represented; all data that is obtained through well-documented scientific sampling methods.
And because of the public nature of the commissions’ decision-making process, fishermen, hunters, trappers and any member of the public can comment before the listings and stream designations are finalized.
But there’s more at stake than just an added layer of bureaucracy, more federal involvement in the state’s fish and wildlife management, loss of protection for the current species on the list, and a loss of independence for the Game and Fish and Boat commissions.
Each year, the federal government sends a check to the state’s wildlife agencies, based up on license sales, as well as sales of sporting equipment. But the revenue generated through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell Johnson acts must go to agencies that have authority to ensure “the conservation of fish and wildlife,” and sole discretion over how revenue from fishing and hunting license is used. Because the proposed legislation would remove the independence of the Game and Fish and Boat Commissions from the equation, an estimated $27 million in federal funds is threatened.
That’s a lot of fly boxes.
Paula Piatt is the Eastern Sportsmen Organizer for Trout Unlimited.
For more about Trout Unlimited’s recent Action Alert on HB1576 and SB1047, and how you can help, click here.