Spearfish residents and visitors will enjoy at least one more year of feeding trout and ducks in one of the prettiest spots in South Dakota. The D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery, a historic haven nestled in the outlet of Spearfish Canyon next to Spearfish City Park, will not be closed by Washington budget axers in Fiscal Year 2014.
Booth Society exec April Gregory, Spearfish mayor Dana Boke, and our Congressional delegation are all pleased, but they recognize they need to spend the coming year marshaling data on the Hatchery's impact on tourism, the local and state economy, education, and the environment.
Booth Hatchery advocates will want to bulk up on the environmental arguments. Read the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Friday announcement and the associated evaluation of the nationwide hatchery system's finances and goals. The report does not mention the Booth Hatchery specifically, but FWS director Dan Ashe is prioritizing species propagation, with a focus on endangered and threatened native species. The doesn't talk much about using hatcheries to educate kids and adults about conservation, but it does mention that outreach and education purposes made up just 0.195% of rainbow trout egg requests in the National Fish Hatchery System in 2013.
The FWS does acknowledge the economic impact of its investment in communities across the country. The FWS report says the hatcheries have a nationwide economic impact of $903 million, "returning $28 for every federal dollar invested." That's probably a better return than South Dakota has gotten from its beleaguered EB-5 visa investments.
The FWS report also provides this text, which Director Gregory and Mayor Boke need to memorize:
A reduction in Service efforts to support recreational fisheries would have substantial economic impacts on the states in which those fisheries occur. A 2006 economics analysis prepared by the Service’s Division of Economics showed that the NFHS stocked an estimated 123.1 million recreational fish, generating over 13 million angling days, $554 million dollars in retail sales, $903 million dollars of industrial output (i.e. monies generated by angler expenditures), $256 million dollars of job income, and 8,000 jobs. In addition, over $37 million dollars of federal tax income and $34 million dollars of state and local tax revenue were generated [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, "National Fish Hatchery System: Strategic Hatchery and Workforce Planning Report," dated March 2013, released 2013.11.15, p. 18].
Having the Sword of Damocles hanging over the Booth Hatchery for another year isn't a pleasant prospect, but it gives Spearfish boosters plenty of time to work up their arguments and work their Congresspeople to protect one of the public investments in the Black Hills. And since we're extending this issue into an election year, I'm sure Rep. Kristi Noem will see an opportunity to improve her job security by making the federal government work for South Dakota.
But for the moment, Spearfish, breathe easy. It's supposed to be sunny today: stroll down to the Hatchery on your lunch break, feed the fish, quack back at the ducks, and enjoy a real Black Hills gem (brought to you in part by Uncle Sam).