Two officials from the Region 3 Fish and Wildlife Service were in Neosho Tuesday to address the fish hatchery staff, friends and others on how the federal budget is anticipated to affect the local hatchery’s operation.
Tom Melius, regional director, and Todd Turner, assistant regional director of fisheries, out of the Minnesota office, said that although budget issues in Washington, D.C. were still not settled, it is believed that with budget restraints the Neosho facility will have a shortfall of about $30,000. Most of that, $25,000, was budgeted for a proposed new project on walleye. The walleye program has not yet started, but the $25,000 that was budgeted will not be coming.
There is a region-wide shortfall of 5.9 percent in the proposed budgets. Turner said that the regional office had decided to cut every budget in the region across the board. The region has six federal fish hatcheries and approximately 50 wildlife refugees, all of which will be cut 5.9 percent.
Turner and Melius stated that the 5.9 percent is not set in stone.
“It might be less and it might be more — we just won’t know until there is a budget,” Melius said.
Steve McIntosh, representing Sen. Roy Blunt, noted that the senator is working on the appropriations committee, trying to get a budget, something that Congress is mandated to do but hasn’t done in several years.
Turner also discussed the newly-completed review that was done for the Fish and Wildlife Service. As far as fish hatchery is concerned, the review looked at things such as native species, endangered species, restoration of endangered species, tribal issues and mitigation.
When everything was taken into account, the funding was set and the bottom line was a 5.9 percent cut at every facility.
Melius and Turner complimented the Friends of the Neosho National Fish Hatchery on their efforts to support the hatchery. Melius said it was important to keep the hatchery on the forefront.
Approximately 25 people were in attendance, as Melius and Turner fielded questions from the floor. There was considerable interest in the future of the local hatchery.
Melius presented David Hendrix, manager of the local hatchery, with two awards: one from the Fish and Wildlife Service and one from the Department of Interior.
The Friends of the Neosho National Fish Hatchery provided a lunch after the meeting.