U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Mission Goal 3. Public Use and Enjoyment

Our citizens and guests have the opportunity to understand and participate in the conservation and use of fish and wildlife resources.

The nation's ability to sustain ecosystems, and the natural heritage of fish and wildlife resources within them, will increasingly depend on the public's active participation in the stewardship of these resources. A growing number of our citizens lack the first-hand experience with fish and wildlife resources in their natural settings that past generations enjoyed. The growing diversity of the nation's population introduces many new population groups to this country that also lack first-hand experience with American fish and wildlife resources. These factors and others offer a challenge for the Service to provide environmental information in a manner that the public understands how their well-being is linked to the well-being of fish and wildlife populations and their habitats. This environmental information must be accessible to all our citizens and guests in order to foster their responsible stewardship of these valuable resources.

The results of a knowledgeable public should be improved conservation of fish and wildlife in habitats throughout the country. The Service plans to continue its tradition of excellence in interpretative programs and exhibits throughout its National Wildlife Refuge System and National Fish Hatchery System. The Service is also committed to continuing its off Service lands information programs when and wherever the sustainability of fish and wildlife or their habitats is jeopardized.

Public acceptance of responsible stewardship is necessary to sustain ecosystems. Public stewardship of fish and wildlife resources should reduce pressure to include habitats only in federal reserves, and should minimize threats to species causing their listing as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Public stewardship of fish and wildlife resources will become increasingly important in this era of declining government budgets. If the public takes an active role in maintaining its natural resource heritage, federal dollars can be more effectively used to conserve fish and wildlife resources.

An informed and involved public understand the decisions of resource management agencies. Traditionally, policies ranging from endangered species protection to prescribed burns and refuge predator control have not always been viewed as positive actions because these concepts have not always been well understood. Improved interaction between our citizens, guests and Service staff should increase the communication among our partners and supporters which, in turn, will increase the effectiveness of public participation in Service programs on refuges and hatcheries. Private citizens, whose voluntary participation in fish and wildlife protection efforts have laid a foundation on which the Service operates today, have much to contribute to the continuing conservation of fish and wildlife resources.
Long-Term Goals

3.1 Greater Public Use on Service Lands

By 2003, interpretive, educational, and wildlife dependent recreational visits to National Wildlife Refuges and National Fish Hatcheries will have increased by 10%.

The National Wildlife Refuge System and National Fish Hatchery System offer our citizens and guests the opportunity to gain direct experience with the natural world and wildlife management concerns. Visitors to refuges and hatcheries represent a broad range of constituents including hunters, anglers, wildlife and plant observers, and photographers. As users of these systems, they are a critical public audience for the Service and will benefit most directly on-site messages about fish and wildlife conservation. The Service is taking an active role in interpretive educational and wildlife dependent recreational opportunities for National Wildlife Refuge and National Fish Hatchery visitors.

The Service is developing better methods to measure public understanding of the relationships between fish and wildlife, sound land management practices and the quality of the human environment. We will work with nonfederal partners to measure progress before 2003. The Service will use these results to better shape its efforts to increase public understanding, reach diverse ethnic and minority groups, and more carefully target efforts to improve public access to its facilities and programs.

Service actions to deliver this long-term goal focus on increasing refuge and fish hatchery educational programs, with Regions emphasizing specific target groups, such as school aged children or local fish and wildlife group members. Some Regions are also emphasizing broad interest groups through existing or newly forming "Friends" initiatives. Also, the Service will develop and improve public use facilities, such as developing learning centers, increasing access to otherwise remote areas, and providing new and better wildlife dependent recreational opportunities in refuges and fish hatcheries.

3.2 Opportunities for Participating in Conservation On Service Lands

By 2003, volunteer participation hours in Service programs is increased by 50% and refuges and hatcheries have 91 new friends groups from the 1997 levels.

Public interest in participating in Service programs and visiting Service facilities continues to exceed staff capacity and is expected to continue to do so. Volunteers provide essential services to augment staff efforts. By interacting with Service resource professionals and working in Service programs, volunteers learn more about the natural world and pass on what they learn to visitors. Efforts are made to find the right number of volunteers to perform the high quality volunteer work the Service needs to meet its overall mission goals. To extend these efforts, the Service will implement cooperative agreements with private groups and academic institutions to make information about volunteering and its benefits more readily available to individual citizens and guests.

Opportunities for members of the public who wish to take active roles in the conservation of fish and wildlife through support of Service programs and activities such as the refuge friends groups will be provided. Messages will be delivered through exemplary use of educational practices and technology, including interpretive signs, brochures, and programs designed to promote public understanding and participation in an ecosystem approach to conservation.

In delivering this long-term goal the Service, as it grows more familiar with the contributions of volunteers, is integrating volunteer activities into its management planning. Volunteers conduct fish and wildlife surveys, lead school hikes, help stock fish from hatcheries, maintain equipment and facilities, and staff information desks in visitor centers. Also, the Service will host workshops and training sessions for volunteers and prospective partners to increase the effectiveness of volunteer partnerships, to strengthen ties with local communities, and to assist in improving existing and initiating new "Friends" organizations.

3.3 Greater Public Use Off Service Lands

By 2003, 100% of all Federal Aid state grant monies are used consistent with the enabling legislation.

The Service currently administers seven state federal financial assistance programs. Each program has legislated requirements defining eligible activities. The Service assures grant proposals fully meet legislated requirements. After the Service awards funds to a state, the state has full responsibility and authority to implement funded actions. The Service maintains a federal fiduciary responsibility to ensure that Federal Aid grant funds are used in compliance with the enabling legislation and that the purposes of the project are accomplished. The program is unique for the success and strength of the partnerships it develops between federal and state fish and wildlife agencies. It is important to success of the fish and wildlife conservation that federal and state personnel share training and knowledge of program accomplishments.

Significant responsibilities for providing opportunities for use of fish and wildlife resources lie with the states, North American Indian tribes, other federal agencies and private organizations. Through its Federal Aid grants program, the Service has many years of experience in working with states to improve opportunities for the use of fish and wildlife resources.

Service actions in delivering this goal include reviewing all state grant applications to ensure that eligible activities are funded and that proposed projects are substantial in character and design. Periodic field reviews are conducted in concert with state agencies to ensure funded projects are implemented in accordance with applicable statutes. Performance reports are reviewed to ensure that grant funds are used for project purposes and that purposes are accomplished. Irregularities are identified and corrected consistent with governing laws. All reviews are coordinated and shared with grant coordinators and resolutions to recommended changes are discussed and resolved cooperatively.

3.4 Greater Opportunities for Participating in Recreational Fishing

By 2003, 100% of mitigation hatchery production requirements are satisfied related to federal water development projects.

The Service, in its efforts to increase wildlife dependent public recreational opportunities, provides aquatic resources to offset the loss of fishing opportunities, usually on native fishes, as the result of impacts of federal water projects. While mitigation is primarily the responsibility of a federal action agency, the Service has been committed, either by statute or agreement, to compensate for lost habitat and public recreational use related to that habitat for as long as the modified habitat exists.

As federal water projects were proposed and completed, fishery habitat was often adversely and pervasively impacted. Examples include creation of reservoir environments from stream environments, blockages of migratory patterns, changes in streamflow patterns and changes in ecological structure and biodiversity. The Service has a longstanding and generally accepted Federal policy to prevent adverse impact or, if such impact is unavoidable, to assure that the affected fishery resources are replaced in-kind or by acceptable substitutes. Such "mitigation" must be continued for as long as habitat losses are sustained, (e.g., for the life of the project, and as long afterwards as the effects of the project persist). Thus, many adverse impacts and efforts to mitigate them may continue in perpetuity. In the past, Service fulfillment of mitigation requirements has consisted primarily of supplying hatchery-produced fish. The Service now recognizes its responsibility to utilize its broad-based capability, not generally available to other Federal agencies, to ensure that mitigation actions are meeting intended purposes and avoiding unintentional ecological harm.

The long-term nature of federal water project mitigation activities contributes to a stable and healthy economic base in large regions of the nation. This clearly creates broad support for continuation of effective mitigation efforts. Other ancillary benefits also result. Mitigation is a broad, geographically-distributed activity resulting in partnerships contributing to coordination and cooperation in areas of national concern such as genetics, fish health (e.g., whirling disease, phisteria) and spread of nuisance non-indigenous aquatic species.

The Service is uniquely qualified to deliver this goal through its 100-year history in fish culture and fisheries management. The Service maintains a system of hatcheries, fish health centers, fish technology centers, and fish and wildlife management assistance offices that provide the broad range of expertise and experience to create success. The Service has all the necessary skills and facilities to meet these specialized needs, and has broad support by user groups and management partners to fulfill this responsibility.

External Factors Affecting Mission Goal 3

There are several key factors external to the Service and beyond its control that could significantly affect the achievement of this goal.

For Further Information, Contact Al Zara at: al_zara@fws.gov

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