The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined with Fisheries Friends Groups in the official establishment of a National Fisheries Friends Partnership (NFFP). From across the United States, representatives of Fisheries Friends Groups gathered this past spring in the nation’s capital to formalize this new partnership.
Fisheries Friends Groups are non-profit organizations that work in partnership with the Service at National Fish Hatcheries, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices and Fish Health and Fish Technology Centers. The NFFP will provide a citizen voice and volunteer assistance with the protection and conservation of national aquatic resources for the benefit of present and future generations at Fisheries Program field stations.
“In the years to come, we will look back at the actions of this dedicated group of citizens and see this as a truly defining moment in our history, where a stronger foundation was laid to assure a bright future for the nation’s fisheries,” said Dr. Stuart Leon, Chief, Division of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Conservation.
During the three-day gathering, the NFFP Board of Directors elected officers to chart a mission and vision advocating for the conservation of the nation’s aquatic resources through partnerships with the Service, other Fisheries Friends Groups, businesses, educational institutions, as well as other conservation organizations.
“I am honored to be elected as the first Chairman of this important partnership that will join Fisheries Friends Groups across the country in a single national identity, and provide a voice for concerned citizens who are also prepared to act as volunteers in support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fisheries Program,” said Davy Wotton, NFFP Chairman and President of the Friends of the Norfork National Fish Hatchery in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
The Board also joined with representatives of Fisheries Friends Groups, Service project leaders and regional staff to hear from a variety of program partners, including state fish and wildlife agencies, businesses and non-governmental organizations. From this meeting, the NFFP identified actions to:
- Support and expand the number of Fisheries Friends Groups nationwide
- Promote the conservation of aquatic resources
- Provide educational opportunities for the public
- Act as an advocate and support the overall mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The Service’s Fisheries Program has played a vital role in conserving America’s fishery resources for over 130 years, and is a key partner with states, tribes, federal agencies and private groups. Over the last two years, the number of Fisheries Friends Groups has grown from 11 to 27 representing 35 Fisheries Program field stations. In 2008, volunteers contributed over 124,000 hours in support of field station operations, valued at $2.3 million.
“I have seen from personal experience that the energy of our Fisheries Friends Groups is limitless, and it is exciting and rewarding that they want to focus it all on supporting the conservation work of our Fisheries Program,” said Gary Frazer, Assistant Director for Fisheries and Habitat Conservation at the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Board plans to hold its second annual meeting in 2010 to report on progress of the task forces and other issues to be addressed in an interim meeting that is currently being planned.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov