Eastern New York Chapter
1736 Western Avenue
August 4, 1992
Dear Mr. Gilbert,
Please excuse my delayed response to your inquiry about The Nature Conservancy's policy on fishing on lands we own and manage. I've been collecting some information from other stewards on their policies around the country in the hopes of providing you with up-to-date and complete information.
The Conservancy's national policy prohibits fishing on all of our lands across the country. There are exceptions to this rule, but the reasons for the policy are based on The Nature Conservancy's mission. The Conservancy's sole goal is to preserve plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and water they need to survive. With this in mind, any other use of an area we own must, first and foremost, uphold this mission to even be considered a viable option.
Allowing fishing on Conservancy preserves is site dependent and based on how fishing would impact the ecological system. The McCloud River Preserve in California, the Phantom Canyon Preserve in Colorado and the Silver Creek Preserve in Idaho are a few of examples where fishing is allowed. At these places, The Conservancy permits certain types of catch and release fishing. The policies are site specific to the actual conditions at each preserve. Research and monitoring occurs regularly and thus far, the types of fishing prescribed have not been detrimental to overall diversity of the areas.
Ecological reasons do exist for not allowing fishing. A recent study conducted by Trout Unlimited shows that there is a large impact on insect fauna that utilize water corridors for their life cycle completion. The study indicates that trampling caused by shore fisherpersons can cause significant declines in mayfly and caddis fly populations. These insects, in turn, are food for many fish. A possible decline in the fish population could occur from the trampling of the insects and their habitat. This causes the overall biological diversity of the site to decline, directly in conflict with our main mission. The Conservancy has cooperated, and continues to do so, with both national and local fishing organizations to utilize this type of information and work toward compatible solutions to the problems on a site by site basis. Joint funding of studies to determine use issues can be very successful.
As discussed during our phone conversation, some confusion over our policy arises because of our work with other government agencies. The Conservancy, as part of our business, works very closely with both federal and state agencies, to acquire lands to establish or add to places such as, our National Wildlife Refuges, State Parks and state game management areas. These lands are purchased with public funds (not ours) and by and large our role is to act as an efficient real estate broker. We do not invest members' dollars in these acquisitions and as a result, may have very little control over the actual management of the properties. The majority are purchased with funds generated by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses.
We also cooperate with other non-governmental organizations in protecting lands. Development of management policies on these lands depends on the goals of the organization and whether the properties can handle the impacts of the proposed use.
At the Eastern NY Chapter, in many cases we may not know how fishing would impact the area. The Nature Conservancy is a private, non-profit, land owning organization, that abides by one mission. Unfortunately, we do not always have the people-power or funding in place to study and monitor the impacts of fishing on our preserves, so we choose to avoid impacts by not allowing it. We are flexible, and are willing to change our policies when an increased knowledge promotes it.
In closing, The Conservancy is not against fishing overall. We use our mission as our guide to whether its occurrence is compatible at each particular preserve site we own.
I hope this explanation is useful to you and your colleagues. Thank you for your interest in The Nature Conservancy.
CC. Peg Olsen\Executive Director-ENYC