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Fish and Wildlife Service Wants to Close Booth Hatchery in Spearfish

Last updated on 2013.08.25

Holy cow... er, trout! Contrary to my usual experiences in Spearfish, I stop in the Queen City of the Black Hills, and the first thing I hear about is a really stupid idea. It comes not from Spearfishers, but from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which thinks it would be a good idea to close the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery:

For a number of years, the National Fish Hatchery System, a branch of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has struggled with declining funding and annual increases in the costs. In addition to rising operating costs, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Directorate in Washington, D.C., has emphasized and prioritized other programs over those of the National Fisheries Program. As a result, the agency has made the decision to permanently shut down multiple fish hatcheries nationwide, including the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery ["D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery to Close," Black Hills Pioneer, 2013.08.20].

Closing the D.C. Booth Hatchery provides a spectacular example of budget-cutting gone nuts. The hatchery is a Spearfish gem. It draws visitors from all over the place. Every time I've walked down there, I've found locals and travelers enjoying the well-kept grounds, feeding the fish, watching the ducks, and climbing the canyon trails. The hatchery provides an excellent educational experience for visitors about fish, wildlife, and the Black Hills, thus supporting the mission of USFWS.

The hatchery also provides a great boost to the local and state economy. Consider just their summer workforce. The hatchery recruits RVers from all over the country to come serve as interpretive guides and do other work on the grounds. These folks draw no paycheck. In return for their service, the city of Spearfish provides them free camping spots in the beautiful adjacent city campground, listening to the shushing waters of Spearfish Creek. These RVers live in Spearfish all summer, spending their disposable retirement income on groceries and entertainment. Everybody wins!

The D.C. Booth Society is riled up, and so should you be! Here's the Booth Society's run-down of all the benefits the hatchery provides to the community:

The Booth Society is against wasteful spending and supports a fiscally sound government. However, the national fisheries program and a facility like D.C. Booth are excellent examples of good government spending. They provide an economic impact that the public should be proud of. For example a 2011 economic impact study indicates that:

  • Each taxpayer dollar budgeted for the National Fisheries Program generates $28 in economic returns ($28 : $1). The revenue generated can be seen at sporting goods stores, marinas, boat dealerships, guides and outfitter services, bait shops, gas stations, restaurants, and hotels.
  • 68,000 American jobs are attributable to the economic contribution of the National Fisheries Program.
  • The National Fisheries Program contributes $3.6 billion in annual contributions to the U.S. economy. That equates to $70 million a week or $10 million a day. In fact, a company with $3.6 billion in annual profits would rank No. 41 on the Fortune 500 List of America’s Most Profitable Corporations – behind Verizon but in front of Kraft Foods.
  • $903 million in industrial output results from angling for fish originating in National Fish Hatcheries.

On the local level, a 2007 economic impact study on D.C. Booth Historic NFH conducted by Black Hills State University revealed:

  • The operations at D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery results in $2.1 million dollars in annual business revenues.
  • An estimated $1 million is spent by nonresident visitors in Spearfish each year who attributed their visit ONLY to the existence of the hatchery.
  • $141,393 in local and state tax and fee revenues are collected indirectly from the visitation at D.C. Booth.
  • Nearly 30 jobs are created locally as a result of the operations at D.C. Booth.
  • Over 14,000 volunteer hours are donated annually to D.C. Booth. This is equivalent to seven full-time employees [D.C. Booth Society, "Save Our Hatchery from Closure," 2013.08.20].

Rep. Noem, Senator Thune, Senator Johnson, get on the horn to the Fish and Wildlife Service, and tell them these budget cuts will cost Spearfish and South Dakota far more than they will save.