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Senator Johnson Fighting for Booth Hatchery; Governor Daugaard Shrugs

Last updated on 2013.09.13

The D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery is hosting a book signing on Wednesday, September 18. As a warm-up for the South Dakota Festival of Books, several authors will come to the Hatchery to sign copies of their books, including the Booth Society's own 2013 book Images of America: Spearfish National Fish Hatchery.

Of course, when the Booth Society commissioned this book last year, no one had any idea it might be the Hatchery's obituary. Fortunately, Spearfish has Senator Tim Johnson on their side. Following up on comments he made in the press last week, South Dakota's serious Senator has sent this letter to the Secretary of the Interior and the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service requesting continued funding for the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery:

Letter from Senator Tim Johnson to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe, requesting continued funding for the D.C. Booth Fish hatchery, 2013.09.04.
Letter from Senator Tim Johnson to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe, requesting continued funding for the D.C. Booth Fish hatchery, 2013.09.04.

"[C]onservation, recreation, history, and community"—Senator Johnson hits the full range of benefits that the Hatchery provides for Spearfish and South Dakota. "Closing down a site like D.C. Booth would be like selling a family heirloom in a pinch, " Johnson writes. "It may help in the very short-term, but we could lose a real treasure that should be passed on to the next generation."

That's Senator Tim Johnson at his finest, looking out for real South Dakota interests and future generations. Do you suppose we can get our Republican leaders to think that way?

Not Dennis Daugaard. The Governor writes back to a local constituent with a much narrower, less helpful view:

Governor Dennis Daugaard, letter to constituent on possible closure of D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery, 2013.09.04.
Governor Dennis Daugaard, letter to constituent on possible closure of D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery, 2013.09.04.

In a nutshell, the feds do too much, they need to refocus, so you're on your own. Daugaard speaks of nothing but the conservation side, on which front Daugaard suggests the Hatchery isn't worth funding. He notes the FWS focus on native species, which the trout the Booth Hatchery helps raise are not. He recites the list of all those other facilities the FWS operates to create the impression of government bloat justifying this cut in Spearfish.

The Governor hopes "a creative solution can be found, engaging multiple stakeholders," but do you hear him proposing one, or offering to help do the finding? Not in that limp-tongued adminspeak, which ignores the fact that the Spearfish community already came up with a creative, multi-stakeholder solution in 1983, when they responded to a temporary federal closure by forming a partnership with the Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain the educational, conservation, and cultural benefits of the Hatchery. The Booth Society has combined private donations, volunteer workers, funding from the City of Spearfish, and sales of fish food (yes, fish food!) to keep the Hatchery alive and vibrant.

But the feds are key partners in that community collaboration. Senator Johnson recognizes that and is fighting to keep the feds on board for a project that serves the big-picture interests of Spearfish and South Dakota. Governor Daugaard doesn't seem as interested in looking at that big picture. He's narrowly focused on needless fiscal austerity instead of fighting for a proven solution that has worked for a generation and could work—should work—for generations more.


  1. interested party 2013.09.06

    Nothing that the Yellowstone supervolcano won't fix.

  2. interested party 2013.09.06

    The FWS should block raising non-native species at this facility and sue GFP for releasing invasive rainbow trout into the Missouri River basin if not just for general principles.

  3. Owen Reitzel 2013.09.06

    I wonder what the Republican candidates for Senate feel about this? If they were in the Senate would they fight for the hatchery?
    There views on this could explain a lot.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.06

    Sorry, Larry, I'm not giving up on South Dakota and rooting for cataclysm.

    Owen, indeed! I'd like to hear Spearfishians bring this question up to each candidate any time they come to town.

  5. Rorschach 2013.09.06

    I think you're a bit too hard on the governor on this one, Cory. The letters you posted have a different focus. Gov. Daugaard's is to a constituent. He may very well have sent a letter similar to that of Sen. Johnson to the Dept. of the Interior and the Fish & Wildlife Service.

    It is not a sin for the Governor to acknowledge to a constituent the realities that the federal government is facing. Someone has to be the adult and tell people they might not be able to have everything they want because funds are limited.

    Here's how the political process works in a situation like this. The Governor would rather have the feds keep running the fish hatchery as they have been doing. He doesn't want to suggest publicly that the state or someone else will take it over if the feds close it. The feds would view such a suggestion as a green light for them to close it and turn it over to someone else. So the Governor is focusing on Plan A, but telling a constituent it may not happen. He's not talking publicly about Plan B while Plan A is still a possibility.

  6. Wayne B 2013.09.06

    Hopefully there's a Plan B.

    In the grand scheme of things, the Booth hatchery seems more to be under the purview of SD GFP than FWS, as its impact and scope is more state-based than nation oriented. Sure tourists from all over come and visit, but the primary economic benefit is to South Dakota...

  7. rollin potter 2013.09.06

    hey OWEN, THIS SHOULD BE TAKEN CARE OF "NOW" BY OUR RISING STARS IN WASHINGTON, SMILIN JACK thune AND THE HORSE rider from Castlewood!!!!! Why wait for another group to go to DC and get locked in for another 6 and 2 years of doing nothing?!!!!!!

  8. Owen Reitzel 2013.09.06

    Can't argue with you Rollin. This should be taken care of now.
    But the Republicans talk about cutting the size of government and here's a chance for these candidates to say if this is an example of what they want to cut. That was what I was trying to get at.

  9. Saboin 2013.09.12

    I received this email from Senator Thune's office today:

    Thank you for contacting me about the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery. I appreciate hearing from you.

    As you know, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery in Spearfish, SD may have to be closed in October of 2013 due to budget cuts. FWS announced in early September that it would conduct a review of its fish hatchery facilities and that the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery will not close in October, pending further review.

    I was pleased that the FWS chose to reevaluate its decision regarding the Hatchery. The D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery receives relatively few federal dollars annually. These federal funds are highly leveraged with private funding. The Hatchery also utilizes thousands of hours of annual volunteer labor. For these reasons, I believe the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery exemplifies the type of fishery the FWS should keep open and use as model of private/public enterprise in the FWS system of operations. Furthermore, I will request that FWS conduct an economic analysis of closure of the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery and other facilities to ensure the final decisions make economic sense.

    The FWS should also consider that the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery has been an integral part of the Spearfish community for over 100 years. Additionally, over 155,000 people visit the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery annually, and it provides jobs and volunteer opportunities for many people in the Black Hills area.

    As an avid outdoorsman, I am committed to protecting and preserving our natural resources for future generations. I support a balanced, multiple-use approach to the management of our environment and natural resources that preserves our resources for agriculture, sportsmen, wildlife enthusiasts, and commercial interests alike.

    If you would like additional information on my activities in the Senate, please feel free to visit my website, Thanks again for contacting me. Please keep in touch.

    Kindest regards,

    United States Senator

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.12

    Thune's on board! Rock on, John! Thank you, Saboin!

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