National Fish & Aquatic Strategy

U.S. Forest Service & Partners Update Conservation Plan

The U.S. Forest Service recently completed an updated national fish and aquatic strategy titled Rise to the Future: National Fish and Aquatic Strategy. This plan builds on three decades of success and lessons learned from the original Rise to the Future Fisheries Strategy in 1987.

Why does the Forest Service need an updated national fish and aquatic strategy?

SRS Center for Aquatic Technology Transfer (CATT) team samples brook trout populations along the Staunton River in Virginia. Photo by Craig Roghair, USFS.

“The Forest Service is responsible for managing some of the best, and in some cases, only habitat for many valuable and culturally important fish and aquatic resources,” says Craig Roghair, an SRS fisheries biologist. “This includes habitat for more than half of federally-listed freshwater fish, mussels, and amphibians.”

Fishing, boating, and other aquatic activities benefit communities economically, socially, and culturally. The agency’s sustainable approach to managing healthy watersheds and aquatic habitat supports these vital recreational and commercial economies and their many benefits for local communities, downstream cities, and the public.

A team of nearly 60 participants across the agency – including SRS research fisheries biologist Andy Dolloff and research fisheries scientist Mel Warren – partnered with representatives from the American Fisheries Society, American Sportfishing Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, National Fish Habitat Partnership, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, The Wilderness Society, and Trout Unlimited to complete work on the new strategy.

“We’ve learned a lot about threats to fish conservation since the original Rise to the Future strategy was created 30 years ago,” says John Rothlisberger, National Program Leader for Aquatic Ecology Research. “The new strategy shares our agency’s vision for addressing those threats and for making the most of opportunities to work with partners and cooperators to conserve fish and other aquatic resources.”

The strategy contains six priority goals:

  1. Conserve fish and aquatic resources.
  2. Connect people to the outdoors through fishing, boating, and other aquatic activities.
  3. Strengthen partnerships and work across boundaries.
  4. Deliver and apply scientific research.
  5. Build capacity through mentoring and training.
  6. Communicate the values and benefits of fish and aquatic resources.

Each goal contains multiple objectives that address current and future challenges such as invasive species, and increasing public demands on natural resources, and impacts from drought, floods, and other extreme weather events.

To focus implementation of the strategy, eight actions are highlighted as near-term priorities. Each action has a clear deliverable and timeframe.

By 2018, the team will:

  • Develop and implement a communications and outreach plan
  • Develop business practices and protocols for mentoring fisheries biologists and aquatic ecologists
Rise to the Future will support and expand networks of long-term fish and aquatic species monitoring in order to evaluate trends in their health and habitat. Photo courtesy of Trout Unlimited.

By 2019:

  • Conduct and distribute a national fish and aquatic ecology research needs assessment
  • Develop a coarse-scale national assessment of aquatic biodiversity
  • Identify barriers to increasing recreational fishing participation and identify high-priority actions that will yield the greatest increase in participation

By 2020:

  • Develop criteria for identifying conservation watersheds for fish and aquatic species on national forests and grasslands, select conservation watersheds, and update the list as needed

By 2023:

  • Increase the number of youth and adults connecting to the outdoors through recreational fishing and other aquatic activities by 50 percent, from fiscal year 2017 levels
  •  Increase partnerships with states, other federal agencies, tribal governments, water providers, corporations, and multi-stakeholder groups that result in meaningful fish and aquatic stewardship outcomes with multiple benefits by 20 percent, from fiscal year 2017 levels

The strategy will help the Forest Service take advantage of new opportunities such as emerging research technologies and innovative and nontraditional partnerships.

Through Rise to the Future, the U.S. Forest Service, together with its many federal, state, tribal, private, and nongovernmental partners, will continue to restore habitat, improve watersheds, conduct research, and serve the public over the next three decades and beyond.

Read the full text of the strategy.

For more information, email Craig Roghair at

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