Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Rocky Mountain States Senior Coordinator
Why It Matters: Recreational fishing provides the perfect opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature, regardless of age, skill level or experience. Despite being a desert state, in 2013 Arizona anglers participated in 6,009,716 use days equating to a statewide economic impact of more than $1.47 billion. Arizona’s Sport Fish Stocking program is essential for meeting the growing demands of the state while supporting conservation measures to ensure the sustainability and efficacy of fisheries management. As a key factor to its success and popularity, funding provided by the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration grant program is critical to the longevity of the Sport Fish Stocking Program in Arizona.
Recreational fishing is a key economic driver and time-honored pastime for many Arizonans. According to the 2013 Economic Impact of Fishing in Arizona by Responsive Management (the last year a survey was completed), recreational fishing created a statewide economic impact of more than $1.47 billion with 6,009,716 angler-use days. In fiscal year 2020, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) sold 273,902 fishing licenses, generating revenue of nearly $14 million which is critical for state-based conservation efforts. Clearly, fishing is a big deal in the Grand Canyon State.
Every 10 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and AZGFD evaluate the social, economic and environmental effects of Arizona’s fish stocking program, and pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, the AZDGF prepares a draft EA as part of the process to continue to allow federal Sport Fish Restoration funding. To facilitate effective fisheries management and positive recreational fishing experiences throughout the state, the AZGFD depends upon funding provided by the USFWS through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) grant program. Funding from the WSFR grant program is critical to the AZGFD mission and the continued operation of the Sport Fish Stocking Program.
If the agency’s application is successful, the AZGFD would be able to utilize SFR grant funds to continue its stocking program for the next 10 years, including conservation measures to reduce or avoid potential impacts on federally listed species, sensitive native aquatic species, and semi-aquatic species. Through Arizona’s Sport Fishing Stocking program, 186 individual sites and 34 species are stocked between both open and closed water systems. As part of the Community Fishing Program, many of the stocking sites are located in urban landscapes such as municipal public parks and recreation areas which provide convenient, affordable, and accessible fishing for anglers of all ages, abilities, and socioeconomic statuses.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted a letter urging the USFWS to support the draft environmental assessment’s “Proposed Action; issuance of Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program funding to Arizona Game and Fish Department” in order to allow for the continuation of the Sport Fishing Stocking Program throughout the state.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?