Most of what I write about for this column has to do with hatchery happenings right here in Neosho. We just recently had our annual Veterans Fishing Derby, and are now gearing up for our April Open House.

Most of what I write about for this column has to do with hatchery happenings right here in Neosho. We just recently had our annual Veterans Fishing Derby, and are now gearing up for our April Open House.
All that is in addition to our “regular” business, where we have lots to keep us busy with our rainbow trout program, recovery efforts for the imperiled pallid sturgeon and Topeka shiners. It is nice to be a part of some pretty amazing activities and people every day, and I enjoy photographing and telling people about it.
We often tell visitors that we are the oldest operating federal fish hatchery in the country – and it’s true! We’ve been serving the nation’s fisheries needs for almost 130 years and counting. There are 70 hatcheries in this federal system, found in 35 states and raising over 60 different species. While we are the only one in Missouri, there are five other National Fish Hatcheries and six Fishery Resources Offices in the eight states of our Midwest Region. Fish Technology Centers across the nation also assist fisheries biologists “in the field” with problem solving and new methods in areas such as genetics, nutrition & physiology, biostatistics, fish culture technology, and more. And we have Fish Health Centers to help monitor and correct for diseases that might threaten our operations.
But we are also a part of something even bigger. Our parent organization is the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Neosho hatchery is just one part of their huge effort dedicated to the conservation, protection and enhancement of fish, wildlife and plants, and their habitats. The Service also helps ensure a healthy environment for people by protecting such ecosystem services as clean air and water.
Since President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida’s Pelican Island as the first wildlife refuge in 1903, the National Wildlife Refuge System has grown to include more than 560 refuges, 38 wetland management districts and other protected areas encompassing 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the remote Pacific. There is at least one national wildlife refuge in every state and territory and within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas.
National wildlife refuges provide habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species and more than 1,000 species of fish. More than 380 threatened or endangered plants or animals are protected on wildlife refuges. Each year, millions of migrating birds use refuges as stepping stones while they fly thousands of miles between their summer and winter homes.
As if that wasn’t enough, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices comprise a network of field stations located throughout the nation. Over 300 biologists in 65 offices in 32 states conserve fish and aquatic resources from the Arctic Circle to the Florida Keys. Biologists monitor and control invasive species; protect imperiled species; evaluate native fish stocks and their habitats; and prescribe remedial measures to fix problems.
Whew! What an amazing system this little hatchery in Neosho is a part of! I hope you can come by and visit us sometime soon to see for yourself. As I mentioned earlier, our annual Open House (ahem – free tree giveaway!) is Sunday the 15th of this month, so please join us! And make a point to look up other Service sites throughout the country when you go traveling – there is plenty of marvelous awaiting you out there!