HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is inviting public comment on adding naturally reproducing eastern brook trout to the State Wildlife Action Plan, the document that prescribes conservation measures for species and their critical habitat before they become more rare and more costly to protect and restore.
The brook trout’s historic range and abundance has been considerably reduced throughout the east coast, including Pennsylvania. Habitat and water quality degradation caused by urbanization, acid mine drainage, acid deposition, and poor land use practices have contributed to the decline. The addition of the species to Pennsylvania’s State Wildlife Action Plan, if approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, would highlight the status of the Commonwealth’s state fish. But it’s more than a symbolic move. Including brook trout in the state’s Wildlife Action Plan would provide the Commission with more flexibility to fund, or receive funding for, projects that benefit the species.
The native range of the eastern brook trout extends along the Appalachians from Georgia to Maine and encompasses 17 states. Of these states, 12 currently include the eastern brook trout in their Wildlife Action Plans. The need for special attention to wild brook trout was documented by Pennsylvania and others as part of the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, a regional project of the National Fish Habitat Initiative. In a 2006 report, the EBTJV noted that brook trout populations have been eliminated or greatly reduced throughout more than 70% of their historical habitat in Pennsylvania. These results reflect the condition of brook trout across their entire Eastern range, according to the assessment.
“Based on stream surveys by the PFBC conducted since 1976, wild brook trout populations have been documented in 1,524 stream sections covering a total of 5,044 miles of streams. Although this is a considerable wild brook trout resource, much of this resource is fragmented and primarily exists in first and second order headwater streams,” said PFBC Executive Director Doug Austen. “Adding wild brook trout to Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Action Plan is a logical step in conserving and enhancing our state fish.”
The Fish and Boat Commission is specifically recommending that eastern brook trout be added to the Action Plan at “Conservation Tier 5 – Maintenance Concern Level.” Conservation Tier 5 contains species that are considered relatively abundant and fairly secure in Pennsylvania, but have undergone declines.
In September 2005, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the Pennsylvania Game Commission submitted the Wildlife Action Plan to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This Wildlife Action Plan was required from each state and U.S. Territory in order to continue to receive funds under the State Wildlife Grants Program. Since 2001, Pennsylvania has received over $13.8 million with an annual appropriation of nearly $2 million. This funding is shared equally between the Fish and Boat Commission and the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The intent of the Wildlife Action Plan is to manage proactively, not reactively, in order to keep “common species common.”
Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Action Plan can be downloaded from the Commission web site. The proposed brook trout plan amendment is also posted online, as is a form that allows the public to comment on the proposal. Public comment will also be accepted in writing through 4:00 PM, August 3, 2007. Direct mail to: Brook Trout/WAP/Public Comments, c/o Dave Day, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, P.O. Box 67000, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7000.