Fish & Wildlife Officials Clarify Announcement
One week ago an announcement in Washington D.C. had the Leadville Today newsroom buzzing as inquiries came in regarding the Trump administration’s announcement that it was expanding hunting and fishing in 77 national wildlife refuges, including one in Colorado. And that’s when Lake County came into focus as the Interior Department’s U.S. Service (FWS) operates just such a facility here, more affectionately known as the Leadville National Fish Hatchery.
As the news feeds pitched a two-sided stand-off with sportspeople on one side, and conservationists on the other, LT reached out to the local FWS experts to see what this would really mean for the hatchery, its trails, and facility located 7 miles south of Leadville. After all, many media outlets were stating that were 4 ½ square miles of the Leadville hatchery were among the areas listed as being open to hunting and fishing “for the first time.” No maps were ever distributed with the announcement, so readers and residents wondered what part of the 3,072 acres which comprise the facility would be impacted?
“This is nothing new,” said Connie Young-Dubovsky, the FWS’s Fisheries Information System and Outreach Regional Coordinator. “The hatchery has been open for hunting and fishing for 130 years. We are just codifying something that is already going on.” So for all you word – and waterfowl – lovers, simply put, they are getting their clerical ducks in a row and making sure that things are recorded factually – as they already exist – with the Federal Register.
And while the local FWS reps didn’t see anything changing in terms of hunting and fishing opportunities at the Leadville facility, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said last month, “This is the largest single effort to expand hunting and fishing access in recent history.”
Still, others tout the announcement as opening up 2,200 square miles of federally protected land in 37 states, much of which is considered critical habitat for waterfowl and other birds to rest and refuel during their migration.
As for the Leadville National Fish Hatchery, Young-Dubovsky doesn’t see anything changing and describes it succinctly as follows: “All that Leadville (Fish Hatchery) does is that they provide access, people can stop there. Everything else (the hunting and fishing) is regulated by the state under Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the State of Colorado Rules and Regulations. The only thing that we (FWS) ask is that there be no hunting within 100 yards of an occupied structure.”
So fear not, visitors and trail-lovers it doesn’t appear that this D.C. decision will change much in this federal facility located just outside of America’s Highest City.
More Fish Tales
In other Fish Hatchery news, Leadville Today caught up with facility manager Ed Stege last week and got the low-down on what’s happening at everyone’s favorite educational and recreational spot down off CO Hwy 300.
Crews were busy putting the finishing touches on a siding upgrade for the residential houses and hatchery office building.
“We have a lead-based paint removal project going on,” explained Stege as he paused the weed-whacker, just one of the many jobs this caretaker provides. All of the homes were built in 1963 and contain lead-based paint.
Work crews removed all of the siding down to the original sheeting then upgraded each residence with new insulation and wrap. Fortunately, this investment was made by the facility’s owners the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which leaves local fundraising efforts to focus on other things, like trail maintenance and educational outreach programs.
As for 2020, Stege reported that the Friends of the Leadville National Fish Hatchery have next summer’s project already in the works: window replacement and restoration at the historic landmark.
The glass block windows which appear on the front of the building are not original, so those will be replaced to best mimic the ones installed in 1889 when the building was first erected. In addition, original photos of the hatchery show that there were French doors in the entranceway. The plan is to replicate those architectural features and install them to either side of the main door to the hatchery.
There’s always something good going on at the Leadville Fish Hatchery, which is why it’s hard to also report that Stege stated he will be retiring at the end of 2020. To say it’s going to be hard to find a replacement that will be as dedicated and impactful as Stege is an understatement. On more than one occasion and in more than one way, Stege has made sure that this beloved Leadville treasure has not only stayed off the federal budget-cutting block but has flourished and thrived under his leadership. Thanks for your decades of service, Ed.