Submitted by Leon Alexander
Welcome to 2016 and to a new and exciting year for your Friends of the Norfork National Fish Hatchery (FNNFH) and our Norfork NFH. Needless to say, this will be a year of changes. To start with, I will be stepping down as your President. I have held this position for the past 5 years and as your Vice President for the previous 4 years. It is time for new leadership and for someone to take charge and grow our organization to new heights.
Not to worry, I will remain as Past President and I have a number of unfinished projects left to complete. With the help of your new President, David Lemoine, and with the addition of several new board members, the FNNFH will remain in good hands. I do ask that you continue to support this new leadership. You can do this by remaining active in our events, exhibitions and projects. And most importantly, maintaining your membership.
As you may know, the Raceway Improvement Phase One project was finished last year and it has been a great improvement. Phase Two is now underway and is due to be completed in August. This construction may require a slight detour through the Visitor Center area to reach the back raceways. Not a bad decision. As you pass through, please take a few minutes and tour the Visitor Center. The Hatchery Staff has made several changes including a fish tank with fingerling trout. A good way for the kids to see them up close.
Your FNNFH held our Annual Planning Meeting on February 13 at Jay Chafin's State Farm Insurance office. Thanks Jay for making this available and for your hospitality. During this session, we were able to create a Budget for the coming year, set our Calendar of Events, which will be appearing on our website, and assigned leaders for our events and exhibitions. So, we are off to a good start and expect to have a record breaking year with your help.
At our last board meeting we approved several maintenance items involving Dry Run Creek. Most of these involve safety issues including securing loose boards on the Boardwalk and applying skid proof areas to some of the steps. These items will be paid for out of our Dry Run Creek account. These are dedicated funds to be used for maintenance items and improvements. Special thanks go to Scott Sillence for taking care of these improvements. This will be time consuming and we appreciate his commitment to get this done.
Another change that has taken place is my election to Vice Chair of the National Fisheries Friends Partnership (NFFP). This organization is the voice of the Fisheries Friends Groups nationwide. The NFFP has become very active with the change of the Strategic Plan recently issued by the USFWS. There has been a change in direction as a result of this Plan and now shows the importance of the National Hatchery System and the many benefits that the Friends Groups can provide.
Your Board has approved a trip to Washington DC for me to attend the NFFP Annual Meeting in April. The meeting will be held at the USFWS headquarters located in Falls Church, VA. This is an opportunity to meet with the Directors and their staff to discuss many issues of change that will affect the Friends Groups across the nation. I am pleased to have been chosen and to represent our local hatchery as well as our other local hatcheries.
One item of special interest will be the appointment of a Point of Contact (POC) for each region. This will give each region a person to contact for items of importance between the USFWS and the Friends Groups. This will include Grant opportunities and other support with our events and projects.
Coming up is our Annual General Membership Meeting scheduled for March 25. The location will be El Chico's Restaurant in Mountain Home. This is our annual meeting when we encourage all our members to attend and learn about our calendar of events and other projects. This is also the time we hold our general elections.
Our speaker this year will be Jeff Underwood, USFWS Deputy Assistant Director of Fisheries, from the headquarters in Falls Creek, VA. Jeff's main responsibility is the administration of all the Fisheries operations. He works directly under Dave Hoskins, Deputy Director USFWS.
Jeff has responsibilities for all the operations nationwide and we are very fortunate to have him take the time to visit us and review the newly issued Strategic Plan. Jeff played a major part in creating this new and positive document. You will really appreciate what he has to say about the change of policy and how it affects our Norfork NFH in particular.
Please read the article on the General Meeting in this issue for the details.
In closing, this will be my last President's Message to you. I have been honored to serve the members of the Friends of the Norfork NFH for the past 9 years and will continue to serve in support of our efforts to secure and improve the Norfork NFH. Being one of the Founders, I have always looked upon our mission as a personal crusade and felt responsible for all our actions. Over the years I have been supported by numerous dedicated board members who have carried the load for our many events, exhibitions and projects. There are too many to name but they all contributed their time and talents and our success fully lies with them.
I am confident that our new leadership group lead by David Lemoine will carry on our traditions to serve the public and to support the Norfork NFH. They will need your support to grow. I wish them all the success and best wishes for the future.
Leon Alexander, President FNNFH