Arkansas Representative Rick Crawford submitted written testimony Wednesday to the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs of the Committee on Natural Resources for a hearing regarding a recent report issued by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service addressing the national fish hatchery system. Arkansas’ First District houses two mitigation hatcheries, including the Greers Ferry National Fish Hatchery in Heber Springs and the Norfork National Fish Hatchery at Lake Norfork.
Since 2011, Representative Crawford has been working on finding a permanent solution to address the funding uncertainty surrounding the mitigation hatcheries. In June of 2012, Representative Crawford introduced H.R. 5931, the National Mitigation Fisheries Coordination Act. In June of 2013, Representative Crawford re-introduced the National Mitigation Fisheries Coordination Act for the 113th Congress. In addition to legislation, Representative Crawford has led several member letters requesting more information from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials—as well as the President—on their priorities and methodologies regarding the funding and operations of the mitigation fish hatchery system.
In written testimony Crawford submitted Wednesday, he highlighted the $150 million economic impact that both hatcheries have had on not only the local economy, but also the entire state of Arkansas:
“For instance, the Greers Ferry Hatchery is responsible for over $36 Million of retail expenditures, for over 750 good jobs, jobs which themselves generate almost $20 Million. Greers Ferry generates over $2 Million in state and local tax revenue and over $2.3 Million in federal income tax. The total economic output is over $68 Million a year. The 2010 budget for Greers Ferry, the year of this study, was $606,000. That’s a return on investment of about $113 for every dollar spent.
“The numbers for the Norfork Hatchery are even bigger with $47 Million in retail expenditures, almost 1,000 jobs with over $25 million in job income, state and local taxes of over $2.8 Million, federal taxes of over $3 Million, for a total annual economic output of over $90 Million. Norfork National Fish Hatchery’s 2010 budget was $950,000. That is a return on investment of close to $100 for every dollar spent.
“Altogether, there is over $150 Million in annual economic output, and over 1,700 jobs directly at stake. And that’s just my district.”
Crawford also noted how the hatcheries have played a role in the overall development of the local communities, and how the efforts of the volunteers and professional staff of the hatcheries have been centered on developing responsible attitudes toward fishing and conservation in the local communities.
“People like Leon Alexander, who is the head of the Friends of the Norfork National Hatchery, and many others have tirelessly volunteered and given generously to help make these hatcheries more than just a place where fish are grown before being released. They have become places to visit and learn how fish grow from egg to fry, to fingerling to mature adult, to see and experience firsthand the lifecycle of fish. Places where young men and women learn the value of conservation and respect for hunting and fishing laws. These hatcheries play host to festivals and events that draw our communities closer together, programs to bring fishing to handicapped and disabled children, and are staffed by some of the most dedicated and hard-working people I have had the pleasure to meet.”
Crawford concluded his written comments by expressing his concern that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was not taking into account the overall impact that the hatcheries have had in communities like Heber Springs and Norfork, Ark., as they determine how to utilize resources across their agency:
“I am truly astonished that the Service is even considering taking resources away from the mitigation hatchery program. A program that delivers so much, from thousands of jobs and millions in local, state and federal tax revenue, to the very things that throughout our Nation’s history have brought families and communities together.”
Crawford said he will continue to work with local, regional, and national stakeholders until a solution is found.
“Working towards finding a permanent solution for the Greers Ferry and Norfork National Fish Hatcheries has been a priority of mine since the early part of 2011 and will continue to be one of my top priorities until a solution has been found and enacted in to law,” said Crawford. “The economy of North-Central Arkansas has embraced these hatcheries from the beginning and by doing so has developed a reputation for world-class fly fishing. I will continue to work with local residents, businesses, utilities, and my colleagues in Washington to ensure that these hatcheries are there for many years to come.”
Please note the attached testimony from Representative Crawford.
Hatchery Report Hearing Testimony