Spearfish boosters working to save the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery from federal budget cuts have some powerful out-of-state allies. Three U.S. Senators and six U.S. Representatives sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell last week expressing "grave concerns" over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services's plan to shut down several fish hatcheries. Self-obsessed Rep. Kristi Noem is not on that letter; she should be.
Lead signatory was Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who says the federal government has an obligation to keep Tennessee's hatcheries open to replace the fish destroyed by the federal locks and dams operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Senator Alexander, like Spearfish defenders of the Booth Hatchery, can also point to the economic benefits of the federal hatcheries:
According to Rick Nehrling, a 38-year veteran of FWS, the 2014 budget showed an operating budget of more than $46.5 million, which meant all hatcheries, including the mitigation hatcheries, were fully funded.
...The 70 federal hatcheries support at least 3,500 jobs and have an annual economic impact of more than $325 million. These facilities lead to major economic advantages for the communities that house them and are a beacon of sound government management. Besides the economic advantages, these provide the means to fulfill Obama's 2012 Great Outdoors Initiative, designed to increase and enhance outdoor recreation [Richard Simms and Etta Pettijohn, "Battle to Save Tennessee Trout Hatcheries Continues," Nooga.com, 2013.09.12].
$46.5 million in, $325 million out... 7-to-1 return on investment? The federal hatcheries sound like keepers to me. (And bonus points to Senator Alexander on the Obama judo!)
Spearfish denizen David Nickel doesn't have quite the pull that Senator Alexander does, but he can rattle off ten good reasons to save the Booth Hatchery:
- Great variety of special events such as the music of Jami Lynn, Six Mile Road, and Gordy Pratt.
- The hatchery’s role in bringing so many tourists to Spearfish, which helps us economically.
- The hatchery’s important role in stocking trout in area recreational fishing waterways.
- The world class archives there where I volunteer and have learned much from director Randi Smith.
- The park-like atmosphere there with trees and water features.
- The way our Booth hatchery is a great-working model of how federal, state, and local governments can work together with private groups and citizens.
- The historic structures such as the Booth House where folks can learn history.
- The many kids programs at D.C. Booth such as hatchery helpers where the next generation may learn of nature while helping at the hatchery.
- The way that D.C. Booth is such a special place for families to go to and have fun together.
- Most of all, I appreciate the ducks that live there. There’s nothing more relaxing than feeding the ducks (they love the hatchery’s fish food) after a busy day at work [David Nickel, letter to the editor, Black Hills Pioneer, 2013.09.16].
Senator Alexander and Citizen Nickel agree: the D.C. Booth Hatchery and others like it around the U.S. are good investments in wildlife, recreation, culture, and the economy.