Press "Enter" to skip to content

How Does D.C. Booth Hatchery Fit with Policy Priorities?

Now that I see John Tsitrian disagrees with me, I guess I'll have to call him names and stuff, right?

The Rapid City businessman looks at the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery's purported two-million-dollar contribution to Spearfish's 374-million-dollar economy and sneezes:

What's with expecting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to subsidize a local tourist attraction? Given the Booth Hatchery's drop-in-the-bucket status as an adornment to Spearfish's economy, I'd think it would be a realistic task to get local investors to step in and find ways to fund it from inside the pockets of those who benefit economically from the facility. Seems to me that the federal government could find other, more pressing, needs to fill with our money, particularly at a local level. Head Start programs that recently got cut might be a great place to start. I can only imagine the size of the laundry list of other, much worthier programs. Looks to me like our political class could rewrite Izaak Walton's classic and re-title it "The Compleat Finagler" [John Tsitrian, "Quick Takes on the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery Reprieve," The Constant Commoner, 2013.09.19].

So much one could rebut... but let's focus on the Head Start point. I am intrigued by Tsitrian's suggestion that we prioritize spending on the most vital and impactful programs. But I can also see how strict adherence to a list of priorities could lead to policy paralysis.

Suppose we identified three policy goals as more important than anything else. Suppose we vowed that we wouldn't spend one penny on anything else until every child had Head Start and three squares a day. That's a heck of a goal... but could we get there? And could we really afford not (and really not afford) to fly any bombers, float any Coast Guard boats, process any tax audits, or pay any police until we had gotten that 74 millionth child a sandwich?

Head to head, Hatchery versus Head Start, I'd probably pick Head Start. But we're a big country with a big budget. We don't face false dilemmas like that. We can fund Head Start and send the kids on field trips to feed the fish at the Hatchery.


  1. John Tsitrian 2013.09.20

    I guess we're at philosophical loggerheads, Cory. We're a big, wealthy country indeed, but given sky-high debt and deficits, setting up priorities seems like a reasonable approach to spending that seems to be adding to, not subtracting from, the red ink. There's also the matter of using USFWS money to support what is essentially a locally-focused tourism operation. If the hatchery has a place in West River's palette of tourist attractions, it can make it on its own without pinching taxpayers via federal handouts. Again, I think we're at an impasse on this one. I do thank you for space.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.20

    Glad to offer the space for everyone like you who takes a sensible look at policy.

    I'll agree that a lot of the benefits cited in defense of the Hatchery are tourism and economic development benefits that go beyond the basic conservation mission of FWS.

    But FWS also includes history and education in its mission. That's what the Booth museum and archives do.

    And to the extent that the benefits of the Hatchery extend beyond the basic FWS mission, the community seems to be carrying its share of that load with the private donations of the Booth Society, the contributions from the Spearfish City Council, and all the volunteer labor that makes the place run. So aren't we already at a nearly perfect balance of public and private funding to meet a wide array of community goals?

  3. Rorschach 2013.09.20

    I have to agree with John Tsitrian on this one. While I think the fish hatchery is a worthwhile enterprise, I think it is one that should be run at the state level by GFP rather than with federal funds. By and large, the federal government throws money at a whole lot of things that ought to be funded by lower levels of government, and this is one of those things.

    What can be done with the savings at the federal level is another question. The savings could be used to reduce the federal budget deficit every year. Or they could be used to enhance some other worthwhile national program - like SNAP (food stamps) for the poor that some Republicans want to cut even while delivering handouts to millionaire farmers.

  4. Porter Lansing Post author | 2013.09.20

    Mr.Tsitrian: USA has sky high debt and deficits because the wealthy, who are doing very well in the recession, are not paying there fair share and in fact intend to increase their wealth by "not sharing". There is plenty of money for worthwhile things such as the hatchery, food stamps, health insurance and better wages for the middle's just being hoarded by lobbyist defended greed merchants who will spend ninety cents to keep a dollar from going to help the needy.

  5. John Tsitrian Post author | 2013.09.20

    Mr. Lansing: Spearfish lodging and dining establishments, who are the direct beneficiaries of the tourism dollars generated by visitors to the hatchery, had slightly over $40 million in taxable sales in 2012, per data supplied by the SD Department of Revenue. Many of these establishments are owned by people who could be called "wealthy." Should they be getting the benefit of hatchery-generated dollars that flow into Spearfish's economy thanks to the federal largesse that comes to D.C. Booth every year in what amounts to a subsidy for them and their enterprises? My fairness meter is in the red zone, indicating "no." Those that benefit from the economic boost of the hatchery should be the ones supporting the source of the boost, the hatchery itself.

  6. Porter Lansing Post author | 2013.09.20

    Mr.Tsitrian: Who would count anyone in South Dakota as wealthy. Forbes list of the top 250 wealthiest in USA shows none. A list as vacant as your argument that those that benefit from the hatchery should be anyone except the good people of South Dakota. Your fairness meter is as selfish as your party's realization of true worth and value.

  7. John Tsitrian Post author | 2013.09.20

    Mr. Lansing: When President Obama sought a tax hike on the wealthiest 2% of Americans and got a hike on the wealthiest 1%, it included individual filers making $400k/yr or couples making $450k/yr. I think most Americans would characterize that tax bracket as encompassing the "wealthy" and I have no doubt that a fair number of South Dakotans, including many within the business class of Spearfish and surroundings, fall into that bracket. That you defend a status quo which creates a market for their businesses via federal subsidies of an attraction in their area seems surprising to me. I'm sure the business class in Spearfish appreciates the support. Thanks for taking the time to read and consider my piece and engaging me in a provocative discussion regarding it. Best wishes.

  8. Porter Lansing Post author | 2013.09.20

    Mr. Tsitrian: Your Sunshine Inn Motel creates a market for your businesses via federal subsidies of an attraction in your area. That's called "projection" or heaping criticism on your competition and accusing them of actions that you're guilty of and hope to cover up. When the Black Hills are returned to their rightful owners and you're paying tribute to the tribe you'll no doubt be the first to demand governmental largesse. I've found when dealing with blathering blowhard bullies it's best to give them the last's yours.

    [CAH: Hey, come on, Porter: is the personal shot necessary? John's not blathering or blowing any harder than I do... arguably more gently than I do on a regular basis!]

  9. John Tsitrian Post author | 2013.09.20

    Yes, I own the Sunshine Inn Motel in Wall, South Dakota. It's on Main Street just a block away from Wall Drug Store. Here's the website:

Comments are closed.