One of my bills would extend protection of brook trout in our Heritage Waters to the tributaries of those waters, and the other would speed up and improve the process of adding waters to that protected list. Both bills were opposed by DIF&W, but the members of the legislature’s IFW Committee were very supportive and the bills got lots of support at the public hearings. I have reported on all of that in previous outdoor news columns.
In response to that high level of interest and support, DIF&W met with some of the bills’ supporters and pledged to step up their processes and protection of our native brook trout. The agency submitted that pledge in writing to the IFW Committee, and the Committee accepted that pledge. But they also held over one of the bills to give them an opportunity to act if the department fails to achieve their promises.
I am very happy with this result and look forward to seeing DIF&W step up its protection of our native brookies. One important part of their pledge is the promise to work with a group of anglers on all of these issues. While I have been informed of the people who will serve on the committee, I am not able to announce those names at this time. I can tell you there are some really good and strong brook trout advocates on the committee, and their promise to work with DIF&W on these issues is good news.
Here’s the department’s “Letter of Commitment” submitted to the IFW Committee on May 9 by Francis Brautigam, Director of DIF&W’s Fisheries Division.
The Department remains committed to identifying waters worthy of nomination to the State Heritage Fish Water List, as well as establishing special regulatory and procedural protections to conserve this important statewide fishery resource.
This letter seeks to clarify planned actions to be undertaken by the Department to address concerns identified in LD 1018 and LD 1236, in the absence of legislative action on either bill.
- Continue current ongoing efforts to develop and advance a list of new proposed Heritage Fish Waters through the 2017 APA rulemaking process for inclusion in the 2018 fishing law book.
- Establish a Heritage Brook Trout and Charr Working Group that will, at a minimum, assist in the development of criteria to nominate new Heritage Fish Waters for rulemaking, with an anticipated completion date of February, 2018.
- Tributaries to Heritage Fish Waters will be examined by the Department with input from the Heritage Brook Trout and Charr Working Group to provide the same protections currently afforded Heritage Fish lakes and ponds. Identified changes would be advanced through the 2018 APA rulemaking process for inclusion in the 2019 fishing law book. The Department will report back to the Fish and Wildlife Legislative Committee on progress towards meeting this goal in February, 2018.
- Develop/Revise Department policies consistent with the aforementioned action items.