STATEMENTS OF POLICY
FISH AND BOAT COMMISSION
[ 58 PA. CODE CH. 57 ]
Class A Wild Trout Streams; Statements of Policy
[51 Pa.B. 1828]
[Saturday, April 3, 2021]
The Fish and Boat Commission (Commission) amends Chapter 57 (relating to statements of policy). The Commission is publishing this statement of policy under the authority of 30 Pa.C.S. (relating to Fish and Boat Code) (code). The amendment updates the internal policy for the Commission pertaining to the stocking of Class A wild trout streams throughout this Commonwealth.
A. Effective Date
This statement of policy will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
B. Contact Person
For further information on this statement of policy, contact Wayne Melnick, Esq., P.O. Box 67000, Harris- burg, PA 17106-7000, (717) 705-7810. This statement of policy is available on the Commission's web site at www.fishandboat.com.
C. Statutory Authority
The amendment to § 57.8a (relating to Class A wild trout streams) is published under the statutory authority of section 2102 of the code (relating to rules and regulations).
D. Purpose and Background
The specific purpose and background of the amendment is described in more detail under the summary of changes.
E. Summary of Changes
Class A wild trout streams represent the best of this Commonwealth's wild trout resources and approximately 3% of all flowing waters in this Commonwealth qualify for this designation. As of November 28, 2020, there are 1,037 Class A stream sections that comprise 2,766 stream-miles in this Commonwealth. Following designation by the Board of Commissioners, Class A wild trout streams enter a process whereby the Department of Environmental Protection will ultimately designate these stream sections as high quality, coldwater Fishes under 25 Pa. Code Chapter 93 (relating to water quality standards). This designation provides additional water quality protection under the Commonwealth's environmental laws and regulations. As such, a Class A designation is an important mechanism to properly protect, conserve, and enhance wild trout populations and the quality of their habitats.
On September 30, 2014 (effective January 1, 2015), the statement of policy at § 57.8a was amended to require the Executive Director to obtain approval from the Commission prior to granting permission to stock a Class A wild trout stream section. Following the update to § 57.8a, Commission staff developed internal decision-making criteria to allow continued Commission stocking of a limited number of Class A wild trout stream sections. Under these criteria, stream sections that the Commission designates as Class A wild trout streams after December 31, 2014, may remain eligible for stocking with adult and fingerling trout by the Commission to provide additional angling opportunities, provided that the following criteria conditions are met.
1. The stream section was stocked with adult trout during the year immediately prior to its designation as a Class A wild trout stream.
2. Angler use (anglers/mile of stream) in the stream section equals or exceeds the Statewide 50th percentile of angler use for the opening weekend of trout season as documented by Commission staff, or the stream section is a special regulation area under Chapter 65 (relating to special fishing regulations) that was stocked by the Commission the year immediately prior to its designation as a Class A wild trout stream.
3. The trout species to be stocked are not the same species as the primary component of the wild trout population.
4. The stocking numbers and frequency will not exceed those of the year prior to the Class A designation.
5. A stream section managed for wild Brook Trout will not be considered for stocking.
6. Prior to implementing a decision to stock a Class A wild trout stream, the Executive Director will obtain the approval of the Commission.
Subsequently, 13 stream sections suspected to support strong Class A wild brown trout populations were officially designated as Class A wild trout streams during the 2015—2017 time frame following updated wild trout surveys and stocking was continued. The Commission believes there are very few additional waters in this Commonwealth that would meet the current internal decision-making criteria used to consider continued stocking of Class A wild trout streams. The 13 Class A wild trout stream sections where stocking continued are heavily fished streams in high density human population centers of a size and character that can support a fishery featuring both stocked and wild trout components. Common to these waters are robust wild brown trout populations, which continue to maintain strong Class A fisheries in the presence of stocking and high angler use. The management approach for these waters includes limiting species stocked to rainbow trout, which are easier to catch, rarely develop into a wild population in this Commonwealth, would not genetically impact the existing wild brown trout population and could serve to satisfy anglers that prefer to fish for stocked trout during the early part of trout season.
Historically, there have been very few streams where stocking of trout following Class A designation was considered and warranted. Occasionally, there may be pre-existing youth fishing derbies or clubs or private landowners, or both, that are not aware a stream section was designated as Class A and unknowingly continue to stock illicitly. Additionally, it is often unknown to Commission staff where private stockings have occurred. This information may become apparent only when the next private stocking is planned and the landowner discovers a Class A designation has occurred. Therefore, there may be rare cases where a stocking exemption should be considered.
As such, the Commission has developed additional internal decision-making criteria to account for these types of rare circumstances to consider internal and external requests for continued stocking of newly designated Class A wild trout streams. These criteria will provide the Commission direction to guide decisions when unusual situations arise but would not automatically result in continued stocking when criteria are met, as the vast majority of Class A stream sections are best managed solely for wild trout with no stocking. They will offer a mechanism for transparent, timely and consistent consideration of requests to continue the stocking of newly designated Class A wild trout streams. These criteria will be detailed in the Operational Guidelines for the Management of Trout Fisheries in Pennsylvania Waters, 5th edition anticipated to be released in early 2021 and available at www.fishandboat.com. Listed as follows are several scenarios that may be considered for an exemption.
1. Pre-existing youth fishing derbies and special use areas that were properly permitted by the Commission and have a history of more than one past occurrence.
2. Pre-existing private stockings on private property on recently designated (that is, within 1 year of posting in the Pennsylvania Bulletin) Class A stream sections that have been closed to public angling at the time of Class A designation and at least since 2010. Historic stockings need to be verifiable by documentation, stocking records and a history of more than one past occurrence.
3. Stream sections stocked by the Commission, a cooperative nursery, or a private group, or both, or individual the year prior to Class A designation and a history of more than one past occurrence, and which meet the Commission's Class A stocking criteria developed for the 13 Class A streams sections stocked by the Commission. These criteria currently guide staff consideration when making recommendations regarding the continuance of stocking a Class A wild trout stream section and were specifically developed for high use, urban and suburban stream sections that support robust Class A wild brown trout populations. Stocked species are limited to rainbow trout and the number stocked will remain at or below the levels stocked at the time of Class A designation. Some stream sections may be better managed solely for wild trout in the future; therefore, trout stocking may not occur in perpetuity.
4. Stream sections which previously received an exemption or a Special Activities Permit from the Commission between 2010 and the present to allow for continued stocking of a Class A wild trout stream section. If the exemption was time-limited and not renewed before expiration, it will be considered a new request and a determination will be made according to current exemption criteria.
Exemptions to the prohibition of stocking hatchery trout into Class A wild trout stream sections would be granted only under rare circumstances. Consideration would only be given to requests for continued stocking in stream sections within 1 year of the section being designated as Class A and posted in the Pennsylvania Bulletin; however, entities that previously received an exemption or a Special Activities Permit from the Commission between 2010 and the present to allow for continued stocking would be eligible for consideration. Should an exemption be granted, the Commission would determine the species of trout, number of trout, and frequency of stocking consistent with stocking strategies and historical stocking rates of the stream section to minimize impacts to the Class A wild trout population. No exemptions will be granted for streams where a component of the wild trout fishery is comprised of wild brook trout.
The Commission proposes that § 57.8a be amended to read as set forth in the proposed rulemaking published at 50 Pa.B. 6903 (December 5, 2020).
This statement of policy will not increase paperwork and will not create new paperwork requirements.
G. Fiscal Impact
This statement of policy will have no adverse fiscal impact on the Commonwealth or its political subdivisions.
H. Public Comments
A proposed statement of policy was published at 50 Pa.B. 6903. The Commission received a total of nine public comments regarding the proposed statement of policy: six oppose the proposed statement of policy, one supports the proposed statement of policy and two comments did not pertain to the proposed statement of policy.
The Commission finds that:
(1) Public notice of intention to adopt the amendments adopted by this order has been given under sections 201 and 202 of the act of July 31, 1968 (P.L. 769, No. 240) (45 P.S. §§ 1201 and 1202), known as the Commonwealth Documents Law, and the regulations promulgated thereunder, 1 Pa. Code §§ 7.1 and 7.2 (relating to notice of proposed rulemaking required; and adoption of regulations).
(2) A public comment period was provided, and nine comments were received: six oppose the proposed statement of policy, one supports the proposed statement of policy and two comments did not pertain to the proposed statement of policy.
(3) The adoption of the amendments of the Commission in the manner provided in this order is necessary and appropriate for administration and enforcement of the authorizing statutes.
The Commission, acting under the authorizing statutes, orders that:
(A) The regulations of the Commission, 58 Pa. Code Chapter 57, are amended by amending § 57.8a to read as set forth at 50 Pa.B. 6903.
(B) The Executive Director will submit this order and 50 Pa.B. 6903 to the Office of Attorney General for approval as to legality and form as required by law.
(C) The Executive Director shall certify this order and 50 Pa.B. 6903 and deposit them with the Legislative Reference Bureau as required by law.
(D) This order shall take effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
TIMOTHY D. SCHAEFFER,
Fiscal Note: Fiscal Note 48A-307 remains valid for the final adoption of the subject regulation.
[Pa.B. Doc. No. 21-515. Filed for public inspection April 2, 2021, 9:00 a.m.]
No part of the information on this site may be reproduced for profit or sold for profit.
This material has been drawn directly from the official Pennsylvania Bulletin full text database. Due to the limitations of HTML or differences in display capabilities of different browsers, this version may differ slightly from the official printed version.