The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) as part of the Environmental Assessment of its proposal to continue to fund, in part, the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s (AGFD) sport fish stocking program over the next 10 years.
The FONSI decision means that FWS can continue funding to support AGFD’s hatchery operations and fish stocking activities that provide recreational opportunities for anglers.
As part of the Selected Alternative, a Conservation and Mitigation Program has been developed. The Conservation and Mitigation Program will implement actions to avoid, offset or reduce environmental impacts of the stocking action and ultimately contribute to conservation and recovery of native species. The program’s development was a coordinated effort between the FWS’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR), its Arizona Ecological Services Office, and AGFD.
The decision came out of an Environmental Assessment process that analyzed three alternatives which provided a range of recreational opportunities and impacts to biological resources.
After review of public and agency comments received on the Draft Environmental Assessment, WSFR, the Arizona Ecological Services Office and AGFD chose to modify the Proposed Action. The modifications to the Proposed Action include the removal of one previously proposed stocking site and the elimination and/or substitution of some species proposed for stocking at some sites. The modified Proposed Action has been identified as the “Selected Alternative.”
Under the Selected Alternative, funding will support stocking of sport fish at 166 sites in selected rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs, ponds and tanks in the state. It will also support continued operations and maintenance of five AGFD hatcheries that rear sport fish (primarily trout) for stocking. The actions in this alternative are the most comparable to Arizona’s current stocking program.
Hundreds of thousands of Arizona residents and nonresidents take advantage of the state’s recreational fishing opportunities each year. Based on 2006 numbers, there were 4,156,000 angler use days (AUDs) of fishing in Arizona, with a total annual economic impact of $1.3 billion (Southwick Associates 2007). Arizona Game and Fish estimates a resident demand of 6 million AUDs through 2012, with some growth anticipated in nonresident demand.
Under the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950, FWS has the authority to provide federal funding to state wildlife agencies for management and restoration of sport fish, as well as public use and benefit from those resources. Funding is provided on a match basis through the WSFR program. Sport Fish Restoration funds through that program come from a federal excise tax on certain fishing equipment and a portion of motorboat fuel tax revenues. In July 2011, Arizona received about $7.9 million in Sport Fish Restoration Act funds. Although the amount varies from year to year, about $2.5 million was allocated to sport fish stocking and hatchery operations.
To view a copy of the Finding of No Significant Impact document and the final Environmental Assessment, visit www.azgfd.gov/fishea or www.fws.gov/southwest/federal_assistance/index.html.