Thursday, March 8, 2018

PennFuture Opposes General Assembly's Attempt To Oust Fish & Boat Commission Executive Director

PennFuture said Thursday it strongly opposes the General Assembly’s attempt to remove Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director John Arway over the agency’s efforts to cut costs after elected officials failed to pass a reasonable process in how fishing-license fees are set, disregarding that the commission operates without any financial support from the general fund.
“For 13 years, the legislature has refused to consider and approve license fee increases so the commission can do the work of scientifically managing our fisheries, providing excellent recreation experiences and protecting rare and endangered species,” said PennFuture President and CEO Jacquelyn Bonomo. “A growing and diverse number of Pennsylvanians from our cities to rural areas love fishing.  For the sake of these folks and clean water, it’s time for the legislature’s attacks on Director Arway to be set aside and for elected officials to get back to doing the work of the people.”
The Fish and Boat Commission is almost entirely funded by revenue from fishing and boating licenses, but those fees must be set by the state legislature, which has not been willing to increase them since 2005.
As a result, the Commission is increasingly unable to fulfill its core programs, including stocking streams and lakes, managing dam safety, and supporting our anglers.
Arway warned last fall that without legislative action, the Commission would need to consider closing state hatcheries, resulting in fewer state-stocked fish.
“This is an embarrassing power play by vindictive legislators who have made it clear they want Director’s Arway’s head,” Bonomo said. “If they succeed in their ploy to withhold the needed funds for the agency to do its work until Arway is gone, it will be an affront to Pennsylvania anglers who have always valued the independence of the commission as essential to science-based management of our fisheries, free of dangerous political games like the ones we see playing out here.”  
“PennFuture stands with Arway and his counterparts in resource agencies across the state who are struggling to adequately accomplish their goals and fulfill their missions with insufficient funds,” Bonomo said. “The Commission has survived for more than a decade despite soaring costs, personnel cutbacks, and no license fee increases. The legislature seemed fine with this situation. Now that tough decisions must be made, and pain felt in home districts, Arway is personally blamed. The legislature needs to stop the personal attacks and provide the agency the funds it needs, or share the pain, and the blame, of options like closing hatcheries.”
The legislative vehicle under consideration is Senate Bill 935, which passed the Senate in October and is currently under consideration in the House Game and Fisheries Committee.
Rep. Keith Gillespie (R-York) serves as Majority Chair of the House Game and Fisheries Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-705-7167 or by sending email to: Rep. Bryan Barbin (D-Cambria) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-783-1491 or by sending email to:
(Photo: PennFuture President and CEO Jacquelyn Bonomo.)
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