This is a long one. It might be one of my last posts for a while as I need to devote attention to other areas of my work. With that I mind I would like to thank the folks who have visited this site and left kind words. I see such a potential in Pennsylvania’s angling community. With organization and follow through we can make a difference and leave our water’s and land in better shape for our children. It’s going to take work, patience, grace, and the kind of unselfish, commitment to a higher cause that is rare to find these days. However, I know these are virtues of Pa anglers and sportsmen who truly value and understand the potential of the resource here in our commonwealth.
Just like the proceedings at the sportsman’s forum last Wednesday the 20th this post is going to take a little time to get to the point. Please bare with me.
Context is everything.
The longer I am around, the more I believe it. I guess that is how it works? Maybe it’s cliché and, as the kids say: “basic” to make such a statement after all. I mean obviously the longer you live the more context you should have so a belief in the power of context becomes a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy mixed with a truism. However, just because it’s cliché, basic, or obvious it doesn’t make it any less true. In fact, the importance of context and history is so glaringly brilliant that is absurd how often we fail to include them in our final analysis of current situations
So here is another cliché: hindsight is 20/20. In that spirit let’s do a little moving forward through the past. In 2014 the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee issued a report “An Update of the Feasibility of a Combined Fish and Wildlife Commission for Pennsylvania” that evidently outlined the positive potential outcomes of merging the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the Game Commission. I say “evidently” because while it indicates saving $4.8 million between the two administrations it was unclear about many other potential costs associated with the merger including restructuring and unifying the law enforcement codes.
Those who forget history…
2014 was not the first time a merger has been investigated in Pennsylvania. I doubt it will be the last. And it is with this in mind that I wish to remind fishy folk that there was a certain house bill 1576 floating around Harrisburg at the same time. For those of you unfamiliar with that bill it was to be considered the Endangered Species Coordination Act. It was less about protecting endangered species and more about hamstringing one of our best independent, self-funded, frontline, science-driven state agencies. It threatened to place the wild trout stream designation process under the stifling, bureaucratic, inefficiency of the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC). Effectively placing the fate of wild trout in Pennsylvania in the hands of politicians, not scientists.
Was it the progress of the PFBC’s un-assessed waters initiative that triggered lawmakers to suddenly take an interest in the politics of wild trout? Perhaps. Regardless, we live in a hyper-political world here on the East Coast where a person’s access to clean water and wild trout clashes with industry and energy agendas on an almost daily basis. This is not new and it’s not going away. In fact, much like mayflies, it’s a cycle. And we need to be preparing for the next round while staying aware of the end game.
Wild Trout Summit and SB30
The truth is that PFBC is under siege. Senate bill 30 would provide them with the ability to fund the commission properly for now. Allegedly, the bill is being held hostage as political leverage against the PFBC to influence the Game Commission in Harrisburg. Without the ability to increase revenue they will soon have to make some hard decisions. One of those decisions might be to close two hatcheries and reduce or stop stocking some class A wild trout waters.
While that might sound like a win for the wild trout coalition in Pennsylvania it is not. Not when you look at the possible future for the PFBC through the context of the past. For decades there has been an ongoing effort to limit the autonomy of the PFBC and place the science based decision-making process that drives wild trout conservation under the control of politicians in Harrisburg.
The end may be near.
Without an increase in revenue, both the PFBC and PGC will need to make cuts. As programing and services decrease you can be assured the calls and rally cry for a merger will come. Such an effort would more than likely require aid from the general fund that would likely place the agencies or newly combined agency under the IRRC process. At least that’s my theory this is pure speculation.
Is there an organized political opposition to a strong, independent PFBC and could they be working to financially weaken the commission to bring them under legislative and regulatory control?
We have to consider the context. In the past PFBC has been supported by representatives and policymakers who were outdoorsyfolk. They understood the value of our coldwater resources and their full potential depends on robust, science driven management because they themselves hunted and fished. “Penn’s Woods” were not for sale or for political exploitation by a few, they were for everyone.
But what about now?
How many lawmakers are outdoorsyfolk? How many cherish the outdoors or wet a line? I don’t know.
The final analysis –
The point is that we, the wild trout coalition in Pa, need to look at the long game. I believe the PFBC is doing their best to listen to us and make changes to their policies and management. But this is a two-way street. They need us to go to bat for them in Harrisburg and locally. We need to let our representatives know that a strong PFBC is important to us. We need to make sure we are heard.
We also need to grow our numbers. Take more people fishing; teach more people about our local waters and the amazing opportunities we have across the state. The angling community, especially the wild-trout coalition, represents the boots on the ground in coldwater conservation here on the East Coast. We are on our waters weekly, even daily. We know what is going on and where. We need to share that awesome responsibility with others. We need to get them excited about joining us on the front lines.
By educating others about the role of wild trout and mayflies as indicator species and the sporting practice of catch and release fly fishing we can win more conservation minded folks to our side. Practicing our sport in this region comes with that responsibility. Generations before have taught and fought for our sporting traditions and now the torch is being passed. It’s time to step into the political ring by stepping out into our neighborhoods and communities.
Share the love.
Mother Teresa said “Don’t wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
We can’t expect politicians or organizations to do our work for us. It’s up to us to do this on our own. So I finish with this, you can write your legislator, go to a TU meeting, maybe even attend a sportsmen’s forum. But maybe the best thing you can do is to take someone new fishing or help another angler along the way. Making a difference can and should be fun and more than likely someone did this for you. We can pay it forward, together.
That is all for now. I hope to see you on the water this fall!