Throughout 1998, the Fish and Boat Commission has celebrated the role of the many partners who help provide fishing and boating opportunities across the state. "Partnerships for the Resource" has served as the theme for exhibits, promotional items, and a series of articles here in Pennsylvania Angler & Boater. We've stressed that, even as the Commission is dedicated to protecting, conserving, and enhancing Pennsylvania's aquatic resources, we don't do it alone. Pennsylvania is a better place and fishing and boating opportunities are enhanced through partnerships. By fostering partnerships among the many agencies and organizations that have an interest in Pennsylvania's waters, our great Commonwealth protects, conserves, and enhances its waterways and provides angling and boating recreation for millions.
Partnerships exist at many levels. We are partners with federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a whole range of issues including permit reviews, actions in chronic pollution cases, and stream bank fencing/habitat improvement efforts. We are partners with other Commonwealth agencies such as the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission. And we work with local governments in providing fishing and boating opportunities and fashioning regulations to deal with unique local circumstances.
In the process of recognizing our valuable partners, we've highlighted for you the work of many individuals and non-government organizations: Deputy waterways conservation officers and other volunteers, cooperative nurseries, landowners, educators, sportsmen's groups, and sponsors of habitat improvement projects. Partnerships are the lifeblood of the Commission's efforts to provide fishing and boating opportunities through the protection and management of aquatic resources.
When I introduced the 1998 partnership theme in this space back in January, I likened partners to the pieces of a mosaic, with each fragment serving as an integral part of the completed picture. Unlike art that hangs statically in a gallery, however, our partnerships are an unfinished and constantly evolving work. The face of fishing and boating has changed dramatically over the years, and will continue to do so in the next century.
Go back 50 years. Only a few anglers would consider releasing a hooked fish. Today, most anglers indicate they practice catch and release at least part of the time; many say they do so more often than not. In this modern era, trolling motors, fish finders, soft-plastic lures, and super-strong polymer are standard equipment. All were unheard of a century ago. What will the future bring?
Jet-powered boats, composite hulls, and inflatable flotation devices are revolutionizing boating. Consider that the number of registered watercraft today has more than doubled in the last few decades. As a wider variety of specialized equipment draws more and diverse users seeking to enjoy our waters, there will be infinite demands placed on a very finite resource.
Changes in population demographics affect our waters, wetlands, and the fish, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates that call those habitats home. What used to be called "swamps" suitable for draining and development, we now know as "wetlands." Now we fight to protect such fragile ecosystems.
As new challenges emerge, so must new partners. At the same time, we must keep strong the associations that have served us so well for many years. Even as this year of celebrating partnerships draws to an end, the need for and value of such alliances will continue and expand. In 1999, and in the new century and the coming millennium, the Commission will actively search for new partners. Beginning next year, we will launch Conserve 2000, an effort to forge working partnerships with individuals and groups who share our interest in preserving and protecting Pennsylvania's waters. We know that anglers and boaters will be at the forefront of such efforts, as they have been for years. Our goal is also to include others who before might have felt there was no mechanism for them to support aquatic conservation efforts.
It's been said that there's "no limit on what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit." Like most old sayings, there is a strong kernal of truth in this observation. The Fish and Boat Commission's efforts to forge "partnerships for the resource" recognize there is plenty of work and plenty of credit to spread around in trying to protect, conserve, and enhance our water resources. The partnership theme also acknowledges that, even as the Commission maintains a strong independent role in advocacy for resource protection, it does not, and cannot, stand alone.
Only time will tell which new partnerships form as a result of this initiative and how we can better work with our existing partners. One thing, though, is certain: Through cooperative efforts with partners from the public and private sectors, we will continue to provide fishing and boating memories that last a lifetime.
November/December 1998 PA Angler & Boater
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