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home : features : nature July 23, 2016

3/12/2014 6:00:00 AM
Arizona game officials unhappy with Willow Beach developments

Don Martin
The Great Outdoors

Arizona Game and Fish commissioners didn't mince any words last weekend in Tucson when they took up the handling of the Willow Beach Fish Hatchery by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Commissioners heard a report from Chris Cantrell, fisheries branch chief, on the status of getting trout back into the Colorado River and getting the Willow Beach trout hatchery re-opened.

Commissioners, especially Kurt Davis, weren't pleased with what they heard and were openly critical of the federal agency's handling of the hatchery issue.

"Sport fishing in Arizona is one of our highest priorities," said Davis, who is from Phoenix.

Added Commissioner Pat Madden, who is from Flagstaff: "What are our partners doing?"

Arizona Game and Fish had offered to stock 8,000 trout from their Page Springs hatchery into the Colorado River, but that request was denied by Fish and Wildlife, Cantrell said.

He also noted that the department is working quickly to get all the permits in place to be able to stock trout in the river.

"The checklist is being gone through and we hope to have fish in the river within 60 days," said Arizona Game and Fish's Jim DeVos.

Cantrell noted that Fish and Wildlife's decision to close the hatchery had been done without an economic impact study to either Mohave County or Game and Fish.

"This closing of the hatchery has resulted in a huge economic impact to Mohave County and the department," Cantrell said.

Cantrell also commended the efforts of Mohave County Board of Supervisor Chairwoman Hildy Angius, who went to Washington D.C. to bring up the issue with federal officials.

Commissioners were obviously not happy with the pace and the actions of Fish and Wildlife.

"I'm tired of seeing memos just going back and forth on this," said Davis. "I don't want to see this drag on for five, 10, 15 years!"

Discussions about Fish and Wildlife's decision to re-prioritize hatchery operations were not seen favorably by the commission, and they didn't like the apparent lack of funding by the service for hatchery operations.

It is no secret that Fish and Wildlife wants out of the trout-raising business. I brought up this fact at a meeting with the board of supervisors in February.

The commissioners were unanimous when they stated that sport fishing has a lot of value to the state's economy and this situation cannot be ignored.

Arizona Game and Fish is more than willing to provide assistance to Fish and Wildlife in providing trout on an emergency basis, Cantrell said, and the department's engineers can help develop plans for re-opening the hatchery.

Personally, I'm glad to see that the commission isn't happy with Fish and Wildlife and the way they have handled this situation so far.

I hope they keep the feds on their heels. This issue seems to have bipartisan support in Congress to force Fish and Wildlife to re-evaluate their priorities as far as the Willow Beach hatchery is concerned.

There is a lot of money at stake here, and a lot of angling opportunity being lost.

However, I'm also a little pessimistic.

I'll be surprised if Fish and Wildlife has the Willow Beach hatchery repaired and operational in two years, even with the help of Game and Fish and private donations.

Related Stories:
• Willow Beach trout deal finalized
• Trout stocked once again in Mohave County
• Trout from hatchery to be stocked this week
• Solution floated to maintain Willow Beach sport fishery
• Hope remains for Willow Beach fish hatchery
• Officials to congressional panel: Save Willow Beach
• Jobs, tourism at issue in federal fisheries legislation
• Trout stocking returns to Willow Beach hatchery
• 'Heads should roll' over Willow Beach hatchery snafu
• Mohave County wants Willow Beach hatchery kept alive

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, September 13, 2014
Article comment by: Ben Dover

90+% of everything that's ever existed on Earth has gone extinct. Let the damn sucker fish croak and put some damn trout out there.

Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014
Article comment by: Dan Wyatt

We are not complaining that the feds spend money, (they should, we pay for it through taxes) we are complaining on HOW they spend it!

The USFWS has plenty of money, somewhere around $1.4 BILLION for FY2014. Yet, they just choose to spend it on endangered species instead of providing trout for fishermen.

If the USFWS had maintained the Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery (part of their job) they wouldn't need to spend $2.5 million rebuilding it.

Interestingly, The WBNFH provided trout for 50 years. Then in March of 2013 the USFWS released a "strategic" report saying endangered species were their top priority and trout for fishermen were their lowest priority.

8 Months after that report was released, WBNFH stopped stocking trout..........

Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2014
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew

Interesting how - suddenly - those concerned with the feds spending money want the feds spending money.

Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2014
Article comment by: Dan Wyatt

Maybe the US Fish and Wildlife Service is "now" run by a bunch of nutty environmentalists, who only care about obscure endangered plants and animals, instead of managing "fish and wildlife" for the benefit of the US tax paying citizens, "We the People".

Maybe the USFWS would rather spend billions of dollars on those obscure endangered species, instead of spending a couple million dollars on repairing their hatchery that was built for the "SOLE PURPOSE or rearing and stocking RAINBOW TROUT.

Maybe the USFWS does not realize US citizens do not mind a balanced approach of supporting endangered species, but the US citizens DON'T like completely hi-jacked trout hatcheries for the sole purpose of rearing and stocking endangered species. (The same species the USFWS exterminated in the Green River in 1962.)

Maybe the USFWS had a planned agenda to stop stocking trout from the WBNFH, but instead of telling the US citizens what they wanted to do, they ran the hatchery into the ground, killed all the trout, then told us it was all an accident, and they don't have funds to repair the hatchery... (While they spend billions on endangered species!)

Maybe, the hi-jacking of the Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery is a prime example of just what's WRONG with our country in this day and age.

Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2014
Article comment by: billy g

Do you know what a mitigation hatchery is?

Public Land Order No. 1941 of
August 12, 1959. Order
Published in
Num. 162
of Fed. Register of Aug. 19,

To rear and distribute Rainbow trout for the
Lower Colorado River. Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery is a
mitigation hatchery established to produce a fishery in the
coldwater habitat created by the construction of Hoover Dam. The
memoradum of understanding between the Bureau of Reclamation, the
National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
dated April 24, 1959, establishes a fish-cultural station for the
propagation of trout in the Willow Beach section of Lake Mead
National Rereation Area in Arizona. This installation will
contribute to the overall economic development of the area and
increase the recreational opportunities in the region."


Posted: Saturday, March 15, 2014
Article comment by: Wiley Coyote

Maybe the US Fish and Wildlife Service is most concerned with the best interests of the fish and wildlife, rather than the local commercial exploitation of them, since this is their job.

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