PF&BC: Add wild brook trout to state action plan

Staff Report

Harrisburg – The Pennsyl-vania Fish & Boat Commission is
inviting public comment on adding naturally reproducing eastern
brook trout to the State Wildlife Action Plan.

The action plan is a document that prescribes conservation
measures for species and their critical habitat before they become
more rare and more costly to protect and restore.

The brook trout’s historic range and abundance has been
considerably reduced throughout East Coast states, including
Pennsylvania. Habitat and water-quality degradation caused by
urbanization, acid-mine drainage, acid deposition, and poor
land-use practices have contributed to the decline.

The addition of the species to Pennsylvania’s State Wildlife
Action Plan, if approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
would highlight the status of the commonwealth’s state fish. But
it’s more than a symbolic move.

Including brook trout in the state’s Wildlife Action Plan would
provide the commission with more flexibility to fund, or receive
funding for, projects that benefit the species.

The native range of the eastern brook trout extends along the
Appalachians from Georgia to Maine and encompasses 17 states. Of
these states, 12 currently include the eastern brook trout in their
Wildlife Action Plans.

The need for special attention to wild brook trout was
documented by Pennsylvania and others as part of the Eastern Brook
Trout Joint Venture, a regional project of the National Fish
Habitat Initiative.

In a 2006 report, the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture noted
that brook trout populations have been eliminated or greatly
reduced throughout more than 70 percent of their historical habitat
in Pennsylvania. These results reflect the condition of brook trout
across their entire Eastern range, according to the assessment.

Based on stream surveys the Fish & Boat Commission has
conducted since 1976, wild brook trout populations have been
documented in 1,524 stream sections covering a total of 5,044 miles
of streams, according to Doug Austen, executive director of the
Fish & Boat Commission.

&#8220Although this is a considerable wild brook trout
resource, much of this resource is fragmented and primarily exists
in first and second order headwater streams,” he said.
&#8220Adding wild brook trout to Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Action
Plan is a logical step in conserving and enhancing our state

The Fish & Boat Commission is specifically recommending that
eastern brook trout be added to the Action Plan at
&#8220Conservation Tier 5 – Maintenance Concern Level.” That
tier contains species that are considered relatively abundant and
fairly secure in Pennsylvania, but have undergone declines.

In September 2005, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission
and the Game Commission submitted the Wildlife Action Plan to the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This Wildlife Action Plan was
required from each state and U.S. territory in order to continue to
receive funds under the State Wildlife Grants Program.

Since 2001, Pennsylvania has received more than $13.8 million
with an annual appropriation of nearly $2 million. This funding is
shared equally between the Fish & Boat Commission and the
Pennsylvania Game Commission.

&#8220The intent of the Wildlife Action Plan is to manage
proactively, not reactively, to keep ‘common species
common,’&#8220 Austen said.

Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Action Plan can be downloaded from the
commission’s Web site at (look for
&#8220State Wildlife Grant Program.&#8220 The proposed
brook trout plan amendment is also posted online, as is a form that
allows the public to comment on the proposal.

Public comment will also be accepted in writing through 4 p.m.
Aug. 3. Direct mail to: Brook Trout/WAP/Public Comments, c/o Dave
Day, Pa. Fish & Boat Commission, P.O. Box 67000, Harrisburg,
Pa. 17106-7000.

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