Yesterday, Rep. Rick Crawford (AR-1) questioned U.S. Fish & Wildlife officials whether they considered economic impacts, such as the number of jobs and total local economic activity, when drafting their strategic hatchery and workforce planning report for the national fish hatchery system. The official told Crawford they did not.
“It has been one of my top priorities since being elected to office to find a permanent funding solution for our mitigation hatcheries in the First District,” said Crawford. “Both mitigation hatcheries, at Lake Norfork and at Greers Ferry Lake, have a combined yearly economic impact of over $150 million and support over 1,700 jobs. The local and regional economies will be severely impacted by any decision from agency officials to close either of these hatcheries.”
In the hearing, officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed that the economic impact of any closure of the mitigation hatcheries located in the First District was not considered when they were authoring a strategy guide that would be the guiding document for the future of National Fish Hatcheries across the country.
“I was deeply disappointed to have the officials from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service confirm that they in fact did not consider any economic impact from the closure of the mitigation hatcheries in the First District, or anywhere else in the country, for that matter,” said Crawford. “I have heard from folks at home, almost on a weekly basis, about the continual cloud of uncertainty that surrounds the operations at these hatcheries. That is why I have drafted legislation and have regularly sought assurances from agency officials that these mitigation hatcheries remain open. Any closure would result in significant economic harm to these communities and to a vital part of the economy in Arkansas.”
Agency officials pledged to Rep. Crawford that his feedback regarding the economic impact of closing mitigation hatcheries like the ones at Lake Norfork and at Greers Ferry Lake would be taken in to account and that agency officials would redouble their efforts to sit down with lawmakers and work through their concerns.
“I will keep applying the appropriate oversight and pressure on the agencies who are charged with operating the Greers Ferry and Norfork hatcheries to make sure that they stay open and operating and that we find an equitable long-term funding solution.”