Conservation a hot topic during Classic week

CELEBRATION, Fla. — In February, while fishing fans are watching 51 anglers battle on the water for the 2006 CITGO Bassamaster Classic $500,000 top prize, some very important work will be taking place indoors, away from the public eye.BASS Conservation staff, BASS state Federation conservation directors, government representatives and other key officials will be hard at work planning conservation initiatives, programs and goals for the New Year.

During Classic week, Feb. 19-26, in Kissimmee, Fla., BASS will host the BASS state Federation conservation directors and state fisheries chiefs in a series of meetings and workshops. BASS also will host the Berkley Conservation Institute's Conservation Leaders Advisory Team, which will set the Berkley conservation agenda for 2006 and beyond."I am both pleased and excited that the fisheries community has come to view BASS and the CITGO Bassmaster Classic as an important sponsor for their events," said Noreen Clough, BASS Conservation director.

Also meeting during Classic week is the Core Work Group of the National Fish Habitat Initiative, a coalition dedicated to providing a national framework to protect, restore and enhance fish habitat. The group will review and take input on its National Fish Habitat Action Plan, a long-term plan debuting in March 2006 that addresses the loss and degradation of aquatic habitats.

Also, BASS state Federation conservation directors and state fisheries chiefs will have the opportunity to meet Dale Hall, the newest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director. Hall is a 27-year employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and served as the southwest regional director since 2001.Among the conservation discussion topics planned for Classic week are:


• Conservation grants


• Dissolved oxygen


• Future challenges to fisheries management


• Working with Congress and state legislators


• Partnering with BASS Federations


• Working with the media and using BASS media resources


• Youth recruitment and growing the sport


Plus, participants will have the chance to tour the under-construction Florida Bass Conservation Center. When complete, the $10 million center — in Sumter County near Webster — will produce 2.5 million fingerling bass.

 "I think this is going to be one of the most exciting and comprehensive set of meetings to come to the Classic yet," Clough said.BASS has long been a leader in the conservation movement — since the early days under founder Ray Scott. The Classic week activities are among the highlights of the organization's continuing conservation efforts.