Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Maine Atlantic Salmon In Jeopardy

I received this letter today and asked to spread the word......
Unfortunately, the Atlantic salmon restoration program in Maine is officially on it's deathbed.   As of July 1, 2012 the program will enter into a death spiral and become a vestige of its former self.  The program is in a whole lot of trouble.

How did we get here?  

Here is a little history lesson.  If you recall, beginning with the McKernan administration when it cut the Atlantic Salmon Commission budget by 63%, the State of Maine has repeatedly failed to properly fund diadromous fish restoration.  With each successive budget since those dark days of the early 1990's , more and more (State of Maine) General Fund dollars were diverted for other uses (some obviously legitimate, others not).  Riding in on their white horses were the federal agencies waving a few dollars that the State gratefully accepted in lieu of funding programs that the State should be funding.  First, it was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - that lasted less than 10 years until they tired of being the State's sugar daddy.  Second, it was NOAA who established a grant program with specific deliverables essentially making the state's scientists their field technicians. 
Now, NOAA is backing out of its agreed to 5-year commitment to the State starting with year 2 of the agreement.  The State had requested $1.5M per year for the five year term of the agreement in order to perform all the deliverables that NOAA was asking of the State.  The grant is to support 14.5 Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs = staff positions).  NOAA countered with $1.2M and the State agreed and the State was poised to layoff  2.5 FTEs on July 1, 2012.  Additional positions were not to be filled at retirement (also on July 1).  So effective July 1, the program was to be pared down to 11 FTEs.  However, NOAA reconsidered and is now cutting an additional $500K from the grant.  Needless to say, this cutback will have a devastating impact on the State's ability to perform any semblance of restoration.  As it stands today, effective July 1 the State will have 5 FTEs in the entire State working on restoration.  (Incidentally, the Penobscot will be down to 1.5 FTEs or 2.5 FTEs depending on how staff are realigned).  It is a travesty in two respects: 1) NOAA has reneged on its agreement and essentially has pulled the rug out from under the State's program late in the game; 2) the State should have recognized the risks of federal handouts and the fact that the spigot could be turned off at a moments notice.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, the State has no backup plan.  What makes it even sadder is that this is occurring on the eve of the removal of two dams that has been ballyhooed as the greatest thing to happen in diadromous fish restoration.  Well, the State of Maine is certainly not prepared to move forward and the entire restoration is now threatened: no resources = no restoration.  NOAA has not so secretly desired control of the program.  Looks like the ball is now in their court.  Unfortunately, the State has abdicated its management rights and NOAA is the big bad wolf waiting for little red riding hood, ready to pounce on the carcass. Mark the date - July 1, 2012.
It would be helpful to spread the word and get some sort of groundswell of support to communicate concerns to the Congressional delegation and others who may have control of purse strings, federal or otherwise.  John Burrows at ASF has been contacted and he and Andy Goode are now aware of these dire circumstances.   We all need to let others know. 

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