By The Honorable Gale Norton
Secretary of the Interior
January 22, 2003
National Fisheries Leadership Conference
Thank you for inviting me to speak at this historic conference. I can now say I was the first Secretary of the Interior ever to speak at a National Fisheries Leadership Conference.
With all the important work done in our fisheries program, I am amazed this is the first time you have had a national meeting.
But I am honored to be a part of something that you have been planning for some 130 years. And, I am pleased to be present at the rollout of your vision document.
As Bill Hartwig mentioned in my introduction, the 4 C's of communication, consultation and cooperation in the service of conservation is important to me. I think they should be part of what we do to preserve the great outdoors.
Sometimes there is a tendency for people who enjoy one type of outdoor recreation to disparage other forms of recreation.
I believe one of our great strengths is the shared love of the natural world. Whether you are a hiker, a skier, an angler, a boater or a birdwatcher, you want to preserve what you love. You want to share it with the next generation and see them grow to enjoy it.
We are all in this together. As I have been out hiking and seen someone teaching their son or daughter how to fly fish, I understand the great comraderie that is shared and passed on to new generations. Your children and grandchildren will also want to keep alive nature's wonders and continue recreational opportunities.
I have seen great accomplishments because of the passage of laws like Dingel-Johnson and Wallop-Breaux: Fees that hunters and anglers accepted as a small price they were willing to pay to help the environment.
Your vision document shows that you share this passion for the natural world and want to be a part of preserving it and making it better.
I recall a story I once heard about the great English architect Christopher Wren. The architect took a walk one day unrecognized among the men who were at work constructing St. Paul's Cathedral in London, which he had designed.
As he walked he asked a workman what he was doing? "I am cutting a piece of stone," was the answer.
He asked the question to a second worker and the man replied, "I am earning five shillings a day."
Finally, after similar responses from others, one workman who heard the question from Wren, said, "I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build a beautiful cathedral."
Wren had finally found a man with vision.
It is hard to know in life where we will encounter the man or woman with the sight to see the whole picture-to understand goals and how to go about reaching them. That insight or vision rarely rests with one person, or one agency
That is why I was so pleased to learn the manner in which you constructed the Fisheries vision document by working together as partners.
Standard operating procedure would have been for the Fish and Wildlife Service to have written a document and then sought consensus. Bureaucracies are not good at listening to people. We want to change that.
Instead, before pen was put to paper you developed coalitions and consensus.
The Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council convened a broad spectrum of stakeholders. They drew in partners from states, tribes, universities, conservation organizations, the recreational fish and boating industry, watershed associations, private landowners and more.
The work you did on this vision document is a clear illustration of how we should do our work at the Interior Department. I mentioned the 4 C's earlier. I am pleased to see them in action. Your collaborative work recognizes that fish don't honor political boundaries.
And no one group or agency has the sole responsibility for helping a species of fish. The only way we can make improvements is when our partnerships are successful.
The Apache trout once was numbered in the dozens and listed as "endangered". Now they number in the 100s and are on their way to recovery. Who took part in that effort?
State fish and wildlife agencies, Tribes, non-government organizations, private conservation groups, the Forest Service and of course the Fish and Wildlife Service's Fisheries Program.
It is rewarding to see the 4 C's so clearly spelled out as part of your vision document.
You know, of course, that the Fisheries program is the oldest government conservation effort. As Director Steve Williams reminds me, it began with a simple premise: to keep fish in our rivers and streams.
When there was a crash in New England fisheries more than 130 years ago, the Congress established the U. S. Fish Commission, the forerunner to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Legislators, commercial interests and fishermen knew there were many reasons why the fisheries had to be restored. Today, I believe those reasons have multiplied.
Our concerns include endangered species, habitat conservation, invasive species, the quantity and quality of the water that flows through streams and rivers.
Added to our environmental concern for the loss of fish is the plus side: recreational benefits of improved fisheries. You know the numbers in the Fish and Wildlife Service's National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
In 2001, some 82 million people participated in wildlife-related activities and spent $108 billion while they were doing so.
More than $35 billion of that came from fishing. It is also important to remember--but difficult to define-- the tremendous value that families and friends place on the experience of recreational fishing.
Earlier I mentioned laws like Dingel- Johnson that anglers agreed to even though it meant an additional tax on everything they buy to fish-- from their tackle boxes to their boats. These funds have improved state hatcheries, been invested in research, contributed to education about aquatics and restored Native fisheries-to name a few achievements.
The simple premise of the 1870s action to establish fisheries continues today--- we need to keep fish in our rivers and streams.
We also have to be able to convince others that we are performing that function well. In the past performance measures were not a part of the reporting. Goals were not clearly articulated and things were not always well managed.
As the new administration came in, I'm sure you wondered about the future for fisheries. Some positive signs were evident.
We have a President and Vice President who both like to fish and
who understand fish stories and battles. They are part of the traditional constituency of the hatcheries, who sometimes seem to be forgotten.
I'm sure you have noticed that both men find time to slip away to do some fishing.
They understand things like the author's line that, "Fishing consists of a series of misadventures interspersed by occasional moments of glory."
Two members of the Interior Department also have an affinity for those "moments of glory." Your own Steve Williams and Craig Manson who heads up Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
That same fisherman/ President has brought a new direction with him. A direction based on the fact that he is also a President with a Masters in Business Administration and understands performance measures and the bottom line.
He also appreciates the contribution that anglers have made to conservation over the past 130 years.
His administration has taken to heart the maxim that under-performing groups should be cut and phased out, while successful programs should be funded and encouraged to thrive. Applying those business precepts to government is not always easy.
I support the President's budget. But before it becomes the President's budget, we have conversations with the Office of Management and Budget.
One of my first discussions with OMB was over their broad -brush assessment of the fisheries program for fiscal year 2003. They had decided on reductions in funding for a program they believed was faltering.
OMB eventually agreed to let us show them that we could improve the program. We then undertook an eight-point improvement plan.
One of the points stressed in that plan was strategic thinking, which ties into your Vision document. It also included performance and workforce management and the proper use of science. Again--things that are high priorities in your vision.
It is one year later and another budget cycle is being readied. Ordanarily, budget numbers are top secret until the President unveils them on February 3rd. We've obtained special permission to give you a sneak preview of what is in the budget for your program.
If it were bad news, Steve Williams would be up here telling you about it. Because it is good news, we will show you together.
The President's proposed budget for the National Fish Hatchery System has been increased by more than $8 million above last year's request. That is a 16 % increase from $50 million to $58 million toward funding your vision.
I'll give you a brief breakdown of where the $8 million is expected to be used. More than $2.5 million will go to increasing hatchery restoration projects to conserve and restore aquatic resources.
For example, the Service will monitor juvenile spring chinook released from the Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery in Oregon into the Clackamas River to see how they fare under "living stream conditions."
Another $3 million will improve the hatchery system's aging infrastructure. Where poor conditions exist funds will be used to upgrade them.
We've had problems in the past with malfunctioning pumps, pipelines, and from deteriorating electrical systems.
I've visited two hatcheries since I took office. One was in Natchitoches, Louisiana. The other was the Craig Brook facility in Maine where they opened a new visitor center and are continuing to bring the facility into the modern age.
One of the best examples of where this new infrastructure money will go is in the Orangeburg National Fish Hatchery in South Carolina.
They will replace the seriously deteriorated holding house built in 1911. It is small wonder that their electrical wiring is in bad shape as well-- the building is 92 years old.
Almost a million dollars will go to hatchery science. $1.5 million will increase hatchery production for listed species, such as pallid sturgeon and greenback cutthroat trout.
The Saratoga, Wyoming facility that raises toads will be able to expand. This facility helps the recovery of the Wyoming toad by releasing those they raise into Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
This endangered species recovery funding will benefit not only fish--but also amphibians, fresh water mussels, and aquatic plants
Another Fish and Wildlife Service job is dealing with invasive species. I came across one of the ugliest examples this summer when I met the snakehead fish.
Here in the Washington, D.C. area, the State of Maryland was fighting the proliferation of this foreigner. They acted quickly enough that we were able to ban its trade and import under the Lacey Act, and stopped it in its tracks. Note I said "in its tracks." That would be a strange way of putting it, except that this singular snakehead could move on land from one body of water to another. It only served to make it more dangerous as an invasive species.
Steve Williams describes it as-- this fish that eats all the other fish in a pond and then crawls out and over to the next pond, where it also eats all the fish. He says, "Maybe it does belong in Washington after all."
In any case, the snakehead brought a lot of publicity to the Washington area.
Perhaps that helped inspire the $1 million increase in the Fish and Wildlife management program for aquatic invasive species control.The President's proposed budget for this program next year will be more than $5.5 million.
That is another million dollars over and above the eight million increase for Fisheries. It is another bit of good news for those of you who labor to stop this silent invasion of unwanted aliens.
Help is on the way. You have labored to come up with a strategic plan that has convinced Washington that it is time to increase your funding. Now it is going to be up to you to follow the strategic thinking and planning you have done with follow-through and results.
I have faith in your ability to accomplish your vision and your goals. To work with your partners to restore habitats and move fish populations toward recovery, to battle invasives and improve fish passage.
Each year your work becomes more important and each year it becomes harder to accomplish. Working together we will recognize the goals and provide the tools to make your vision a reality. Nine million dollars is a significant step toward those goals.
It gives us a rare opportunity to turn around the fisheries program, and the only way to do that is to continue working together.
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