The Fish and Boat Commission will commemorate and celebrate the 150th Anniversary of its founding as one of the nation’s oldest conservation agencies during this month’s quarterly business meeting and at a special public event at the State Museum in Harrisburg.
The PFBC’s quarterly business meeting will be held on March 30-31 at the Harrisburg headquarters. The meeting was specifically scheduled to coincide with the agency’s founding on March 30, 1866.
Following committee meetings on March 30, Commissioners and staff will join invited guests, members of the public, legislators, and Gov. Tom Wolf at the State Museum for presentations about the agency’s celebrated history and discussions about its future.
The evening event will be held on March 30, from 6-8 p.m. at the State Museum, located at 300 North Street. It is free and the public is encouraged to attend and meet past and present Commissioners and learn more about the agency’s history.
“Over the course of the next year, I invite fellow anglers and boaters to join in our commemoration of the last 150 years,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway, who was named the Commission’s 10th executive director on March 2, 2010, and has worked for the agency for 36 years. “It will be a great time to learn about our agency’s contribution to the health of Penn’s woods and waters and celebrate the fact that our 86,000 miles of streams, nearly 4,000 lakes and reservoirs, over 404,000 acres of wetlands and 63 miles of Lake Erie shoreline are still home to more than 25,000 species of known plants and animals, and perhaps, many thousands more yet to be identified.”
“These facts demonstrate the enormity and complexity of the challenges that face the PFBC as we strive to fulfill our legislative and Constitutional duties to protect, conserve and enhance our Commonwealth’s aquatic resources,” he added.
“Pennsylvania’s abundance of waterways, from mountain streams and lakes, to mighty rivers like the Susquehanna and Allegheny, to the Great Lake Erie, provide endless recreational opportunities to the Commonwealth’s anglers and boaters,” added PFBC Board President Edward Mascharka, III. “These opportunities wouldn’t be here without the hard work and dedication over the last 150 years by this agency to protect and conserve our natural resources. I’m proud to be a part of this rich history and look forward to carrying forth our mission into the future.”
Over the last 150 years, the Commission has evolved from a one-man operation funded solely by the general fund to an agency with a complement of 432 staff funded by anglers and boaters through license and registration fees and federal excise taxes on fishing and boating equipment.
The origins of the PFBC date to 1866 when a convention was held in Harrisburg to investigate water pollution being caused by the wholesale logging of Pennsylvania’s forests and the impacts caused by sedimentation of mountain lakes and streams. There were also serious concerns about the reduction of American Shad runs in the Susquehanna River.
This discussion resulted in Gov. Andrew Curtin signing into law Act of March 30, 1866 (P.L. 370, No. 336), which named James Worrall Pennsylvania’s first Commissioner of Fisheries.
In 1925, Act 1925-263 established the Board of Fish Commissioners. Then, in 1949, Act 1949-180 officially established the Pennsylvania Fish Commission as an agency and described its powers and duties.
The Commission appointed Charles A. French as its first executive director in 1949, and in 1991 under Act 1991-39, the Pennsylvania Fish Commission became the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
“Our future is bright but not without challenges,” added Arway. “We have made substantial progress over the last generation by cleaning up our waters so that we can now say that we have more waters to fish today than when we were children. However, yesterday’s challenges were simple compared to the environmental and natural resource challenges that we face in the future.”
“Our new challenges will no longer be at the local scale but will require much different solutions at the watershed, regional, national and even global scales,” he added. “We will have to work across disciplines and use the appropriate science to diagnose the problems, apply the engineering skills to develop the solutions and have the political will to create the laws and provide the funding for the solutions.”For more information, visit the Fish & Boat Commission’s 150th Anniversary webpage.