|The Truth about the "Stocking" law suit and what you can do: A Q&A Information Guide from CSPA
By Chris Shutes, CSPA FERC Projects Director
December 3, 2008
In October 2006, Pacific Rivers Council and Center for Biological Diversity sued DFG over fish stocking programs it has engaged in claiming that no Environmental Impact Report (EIR) had ever been completed for the programs. The result of the case was a November 2nd court order requiring DFG to complete an EIR and a temporary halt to stocking in some California lakes and streams. DFG is now engaged in the EIR process, scheduled to be completed in January 2010.
Following a number of news articles and posts on various fishing bulletin boards containing inaccurate information, CSPA has put together this Q&A as an angler's guide.
Q: How many reservoirs, lakes and streams are affected by the temporary ban on fish stocking?
A: About 175.
Q: Does this mean that these waters will never be stocked again?
A: No. After the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is completed, alternatives will be evaluated and management decisions will be made. It is irresponsible to say that any given location where stocking has been halted temporarily will never see fish stocking in the future.
Q: Will fish stocking in other waters be stopped as a result of the management decisions that are informed by the EIR?
A: Maybe, when the EIR is completed. It is also very possible that many of the waters where stocking is temporarily halted will see stocking resume.
Q: Is an Environmental Impact Report a bad thing, or an unnecessary one?
A: Understanding the environmental consequences of resource management is important. Just because the people who filed a lawsuit to require an EIR donít particularly care about fishermen, that doesnít mean they havenít raised a point that has validity. DFG has never said that producing an EIR was uncalled for. If CSPA has a gripe with DFG on this issue, itís that DFG didnít decide to do an EIR before, and that DFG has taken too long to get it done once it was compelled to.
Q: Do CSPA and other angler organizations file suit to require EIRís or to require changes to EIRís, or otherwise use EIRís to protect fish?
A: We do this all the time. Take away the right of the Center For Biological Diversity to file suit to require an EIR, and youíve taken away one of the major legal hammers CSPA and other fishing organizations have to file suit to protect fish and fisheries.
Q: How do we keep other ďenvironmentalĒ organizations from using legal processes against fishermen?
A: By supporting CSPA with your memberships, so that we can be parties in lawsuits to represent angler interests. Only the parties to lawsuits have standing to affect the outcome in court. If youíre outside, you are essentially powerless. If we have standing, DFG and other entities canít cut deals that donít defend our interests. Thatís why CSPA intervened in the Striper lawsuit filed by Kern County water agencies against DFG: we canít afford to have DFG sit down in a settlement conference with Kern County water users to decide the fate of striped bass. We need to be at the table.
Q: Why didnít CSPA intervene in the fish stocking lawsuit?
A: First, because lawsuits are expensive. Lack of funding limits the number of legal actions on which we can be engaged. Second, the remedy in this suit was to produce the EIR. CSPA can respond to the EIR, and address the issues of substance, when the draft EIR is published. We had no way of predicting that completion of the EIR would be delayed.
Q: Is there anything anglers can do now to make DFG stock waters in 2009 if DFG is enjoined from stocking those waters?
A: Not a damn thing. Thatís how the courts work.
Q: How about in the longer term?
A: There you go. When the Draft Environmental Impact Report is issued, the public has a fixed time period to comment on it. Those comments have to be considered by the lead agency, in this case DFG. CSPA will post a link to the draft EIR on our website as soon as the document is available. If the lead agency does not adequately address comments, that gives parties who comment standing to file suit once the final EIR is issued.
Q: Tom Stienstra says that we shouldnít stop stocking fish because that wonít protect frogs. Other things are killing the frogs anyway.
A: Be careful what you wish for. The same kind of argument is used against fish all the time. Since there are always ďotherĒ things that kill off the fish, water managers tell us that their piece of the problem is not important, and they should get a free pass.
The EIR needs to do its job and analyze the impacts of fish stocking on all aspects of the environment, including frogs. Anglers will need to ask for careful definition of the criteria used to reach conclusions, and for analysis of effects on a basis that is as site-specific as is reasonable.
Q; Tom Stienstra also says that ďa lawsuit could shut down virtually any fishing or hunting program.Ē Are lawsuits the problem?
A: Lawsuits filed by groups like CSPA have been one of the most effective tools in keeping the degradation of Californiaís fisheries from becoming even worse than it has.
Q: So are environmentalists to blame?
A: CSPA has long worked to build bridges between anglers and environmental groups. In some measure, we consider ourselves to be both an angler organization and an environmental one. Anglers have, for far too long, been far too prone to engage in circular firing squads, bickering among themselves and driving away natural allies. On the other hand, CSPA has also found that many self-described allies act against our interests in critical moments. There are no formulas to address dealing with organizational partners. One thing we do consistently is to try to define and follow our own agenda.
Q: So what should anglers do until the draft EIR is published?
A: CSPA suggests that anglers take the opportunity to discover new places to fish if their usual fishing holes are affected by the injunction. Watch the CSPA website and weekly e-mails for news about the status of the fish stocking EIR, and be prepared to respond when the document is issued. Educate yourself about the issues facing Californiaís fisheries. Support CSPA and its efforts to improve fisheries and fishing opportunities. It does not improve the situation to give practical support to former Senator Phil Grammís statement that Americans are a, "bunch of whiners."
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