Hatcheries could soon be in the budget crosshairs

From the Don’t Give Our Governor Any Ideas department comes news
from Vermont that, amid that state’s fiscal crisis, a plan is on
the table to close all of the Green Mountain State’s fish
hatcheries.

It’s been described by a spokesman for Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas
as a scare tactic (all rest areas and historic sites would also be
closed under the Senate Appropriations Committee proposal), but the
fact remains it hasn’t gone away as budget battles continue across
Lake Champlain.

Too, Minnesota lawmakers have unveiled an ill-advised proposal
to gradually phase out that state’s hatchery program by 2014.

So forgive New York’s anglers for being a little skittish these
days, and forgive them when those rumors start flying around the
state that at least some of DEC’s dozen fish hatcheries may be on
the chopping block. Given what’s happened around here in recent
months – the pheasant farm shutdown plan, sweeping layoffs within
the department, campground closures, etc. – it’s certainly a
believable – if unfounded – report when there’s talk that some of
the state’s fish hatcheries are in their final days.

For the record, they’re not. At least not now. We don’t think,
anyway.

But when you look at the laundry list of work needed to be done
to upgrade the hatchery system (some facilities are in much greater
need of attention than others), you can easily see the governor’s
budget office taking an approach that it would be cheaper just to
mothball a couple hatcheries than funnel thousands of dollars into
repair work.

That would be tragic on many fronts. DEC’s hatcheries are highly
productive, rearing over 2.5 adult trout annually in addition to
the walleye, salmon and muskellunge programs at some of those
hatcheries. New York’s hatchery effort ranks second – and a close
second at that – to only Pennsylvania in the Northeast in terms of
trout production, and although there’s an angling segment out there
that wrinkles its nose at stocked trout, the fact remains stockies
are hugely popular with a large number of anglers.

Perhaps the most important aspect of having a state-operated
hatchery system is that DEC can keep a close eye on the health of
its stocked fish. That’s particularly important today with the
arrival of viral hemorrhagic septicemia and other diseases. Going
the private hatchery route makes that much more challenging for the
state.

Still, there will always be detractors who feel private
hatcheries can do it cheaper and the state can save some bucks
through privatization. Well, yes and no. Private hatcheries can’t
wait to see a paying customer like the government come along; they
almost always overpay for any product.

So right now, we still have a hatchery system in New York. But
with the budget crisis in the Empire State, how long will be it
before some or all of those dozen facilities are in the crosshairs
of the Division of Budget? It’s happening elsewhere, and when it
comes to taking away from sportsmen and women, New York is
typically a leader in that movement.

Get well wishes go out to Pat Arnold, a Conservation Alliance of
New York member, Fish and Wildlife Management Board rep and
longtime sportswoman and trapper who not long ago had a bit of a
health scare. She’s back home now and getting better every day, and
no doubt she’ll be advocating for all of us in Albany and elsewhere
real soon. They don’t make ’em like Pat anymore. 

Categories: New York – Steve Piatt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *