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Old 03-04-2012, 09:19 AM
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T Gunn T Gunn is offline
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Bright Future for the Lees Ferry Fishery

There are interesting events unfolding related to the Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam that look very promising for the future of the Lees Ferry trout fishery. The Bureau of Reclamation, which is responsible for Dam operations, and the US Park Service are the lead agencies in preparing a Long Term Experimental and Management Plan Environmental Impact Statement (LTEMP) that will direct Federal and state agency actions on the River for the next ten to fifteen years. The formal scoping period prior to the start of the LTEMP provided an opportunity for interested parties to submit comments on what should be included.

A coalition of angling groups and individuals along with the Marble Canyon guiding and business interests was assembled to focus comments related to the Lees Ferry fishery. The coalition includes the Federation of Fly Fishers, the Arizona State Council of Trout Unlimited, fly fishing clubs in Arizona, individual anglers, and representation from the entire Marble Canyon guide and lodge community. The number one issue advanced for inclusion in the LTEMP is the restoration of the Lees Ferry trout fishery to the Blue Ribbon status that it enjoyed in the past.

Lees Ferry’s reputation as a destination trout fishery with abundant trophy trout has slipped from when it drew visitors from across the country and around the world. It remains a premier fishing location but the status of the River for large trout was allowed to decline over time and while it remains a unique Arizona trout fishery it no longer brings the large number of fishing visitors of the past. In lieu of being managed to be what it could be it has been the recipient of unrelated management actions rather than planned beneficial actions. Our goal for the LTEMP is the implementation of a comprehensive fishery management plan that recognizes the recreational and economic benefits to be realized by such a plan and manages the fishery for a Blue Ribbon fishing experience.

While we were working on a template for a suggested comprehensive fishery management plan including native fish downstream and trout within Lees Ferry the Park Service had already set in motion plans for developing just such a plan. Their goal is to complete a plan and have it in place by the end of 2012 prior to the completion of the LTEMP process. There is split Park Service jurisdiction of the River below the Dam. The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (GCNRA) is responsible for the lands including the Lees Ferry reach from the Dam to the Paria River. The Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) is responsible for the lands including the River downstream from the Paria. The importance here is that the GCNRS’s mission assigns more prominence to recreational fishing than the GCNP’s mission which has a more complex range of responsibilities.

The GCNRA with the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGF) are beginning the process of developing the future management plan for the Lees Ferry fishery with a focus on the trout in that reach of the River. The coalition group for the LTEMP comments is participating in a pre-planning stakeholder meeting with GCNRA, AZGF and other agencies that will shape the content of the plan prior to the formal scoping period. AZGF is actively supporting the restoration of a Blue Ribbon fishery and we are seeing a favorable response for considering that goal from the Park Service, both GCNRA and GCNP. This presents the very favorable prospect of elevating the commitment to the trout fishery from what has been benign neglect at the best.

There is a ways to go on getting this done and there may be some bumps along the way. Support from the angling community is particularly important in establishing priorities for the final plan. I will keep you advised as this process moves along and it will be beneficial if you distribute this out to inform as broad a group as we can.
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