|HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) Executive Director John Arway formally presented the agency’s 2011 Annual Report to the House Game and Fisheries Committee today. In his remarks, Mr. Arway reiterated that one of the agency’s top goals in its five-year strategic plan is to identify alternative funding sources in order to sustain the agency.
“My hope is that we can work together to find supplemental funding so we can eventually lower the cost of a general fishing license,” he said. “This will get more people fishing, which will also add revenue to the Commonwealth’s General Fund.”
Mr. Arway urged the General Assembly to support several pending pieces of legislation, including Senate Bill 1049, which would provide the PFBC with the flexibility to creatively market the fishing and boating experience.
“This bipartisan legislation is critical for the agency’s survival,” he said. “It takes the innovative approach of allowing us to sell multi-year fishing licenses and experiment with creative marketing packages.” Mr. Arway said the legislation could benefit the agency by ensuring greater revenue stability and predictability.
Mr. Arway also thanked legislators and Gov. Corbett for passing Marcellus shale impact fee legislation, which allocates $1 million annual to the PFBC for efforts related to permit reviews.
While securing the PFBC’s financial future is a top priority, Mr. Arway said that the agency remains committed to fulfilling other strategic goals, including protecting and conserving aquatic resources and habitats.
Last October, for example, the PFBC joined Trout Unlimited, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and other partners in celebrating improvements to the West Branch Susquehanna River and its many tributaries. The overall health of the watershed has improved greatly as compared to 25 years ago.
Also last year, the PFBC added nearly 100 new waters to the state’s list of wild trout streams, raising the total number of documented waterways which support naturally reproducing populations of trout to more than 3,500. The changes resulted from recent stream surveys undertaken as part of the Unassessed Waters Initiative, a collaborative effort among the agency, local colleges and universities, and conservation groups.
“The wild trout stream designation has regulatory significance because wetlands that are located in or along the floodplain of the reach of a wild trout stream are considered exceptional value wetlands by DEP and are entitled to the highest level of protection,” Mr. Arway said. “Additionally, our Class A Wild Trout Streams – the best of our best – are protected by DEP as High Quality-Coldwater Fisheries.”
During his remarks, Mr. Arway asked committee members to sign on as co-sponsors on a proposed bill that would create a new category of offenses within the Fish and Boat Code for serious poaching violations. The proposed bill would also increase the duration for which the PFBC’s board of commissioners would be permitted to revoke an individual’s fishing or boating privileges.
Mr. Arway also provided legislators with updates on the list of high-hazard, unsafe dams across the Commonwealth and with recent changes to annual stocking schedules.
In closing his testimony, Mr. Arway welcomed the new class of waterways conservation officers and thanked legislators for their support of House Bill 1417, which increases the penalty for assaulting an officer.
“These men and women face potentially dangerous situations every day and they deserve the best protection we can provide,” he said.
The PFBC 2011 Annual Report can be found on the agency’s website at: http://fishandboat.com/promo/annualreport/2011ann_rpt.pdf.