Government Dysfunction a Slow-Motion Disaster for Fish Resources

In addition to the estimated $760 million in daily income lost by communities and businesses bordering federal parks, the halt in collection of license fees and taxes that feed directly into wildlife restoration and protection, and the immediate human impact of work lost by guides and outfitters, the U.S. government shut-down that began Tuesday morning may also have lasting effects on conservation.

Take Trout Unlimited, for example. In a conference call hosted minutes ago by TU’s Keith Curley, Zach Cochrum, Chris Hunt, and Steve Moyer, vice president of government affairs, it became clear that there are both immediate and time-sensitive impacts.  The following examples were mentioned:

  • This week’s Wild Trout Symposium in West Yellowstone, MT, where scientists and researchers meet to share information and plan projects and is scheduled once every three years, has been cancelled.
  • TU’s flood response efforts after the devastation of recent weeks on Colorado’s front range have been put on hold.
  • Tens of thousand of dollars of telemetry equipment used to track trout species in Yellowstone National Park is inaccessible and in danger of being lost.
  • Dozens if not hundred of other “boots-on-the-ground” projects like mine cleanup, stream restoration, and even fencing streams to keep cows out are halted, since in many cases TU leverages government funding to help offset the costs.
  • And as TU’s Steve Moyer pointed out, “There’s the potential that the contractors who are on hand to do the major lifting in larger projects will move on to more predictable work.”

There are, of course, other impacts that may not be measurable in the short term: loss of license fees and taxes–which feed directly into resource management at the national, state and local level, and the loss of “eyes and ears” in parks and wilderness areas where visitors are often the first to report violations of park regulations.

And what happens at federally funded hatcheries, which supply a large portion of stocked trout–which in turn will feed the fishing “economy” of 2014?

Ironically, it was just over a week ago that Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was proposing to expand fishing and hunting opportunities throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Bowling, anyone?

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