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Fishing for Answers
Aug 26, 2013
Biting the friendly hand of Washington wouldn't be wise, considering that Uncle Sam has been feeding us lots of goodies in South Dakota for a long, long time.
South Dakotans get about $1.50 back for every dollar sent to Washington — far more than most states — and what do we have to show for it? A family farm economy, an Air Force Base and National Guard, national forests and grasslands, veterans hospitals, interstate highways, Mount Rushmore, airports, rural water systems and many other staples of South Dakota life.
Then let's not forget the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery in Spearfish. The pastoral little hatchery in the center of Spearfish has been raising trout since 1892. Next to the cavalry and homesteading, it may be the oldest federal program in the state. And it may be one of the first to go.
We heard rumors last week that the hatchery on Spearfish Creek is on a closure list. There's no confirmation from Washington; neither is there a denial. If it's true, that's a sad way for the feds to say goodbye to a 117-year-old fisheries partner.
Government spending as a percentage of our nation's GDP is too high. We can all agree on that. But the closure of the Booth hatchery seems to be a knee jerk reaction. Shouldn't someone stand up and explain the reasoning? Shouldn't someone from Washington show up and say here's what it costs, here is the cost/benefit analysis and here are the options?
Shouldn't the community of Spearfish — which has contributed many thousands of volunteer man-hours to the hatchery through the years — and the state of South Dakota be given some time to respond?
This is no way to run a government. Maybe the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery is the most wasteful federal program in America. We suspect that it is not. But shouldn't we know that before we net the trout and drain the ponds? Every dollar spent by Washington should be similarly analyzed. Sadly, the programs that seem safest are those with a wealthy constituency. The little hatchery in Spearfish doesn't have a lobbyist so it's fair game.
We're all at fault for this debacle. Dysfunctional politics have forced the hands of those who feed us federal dollars. Because elected officials are unwilling or unable to make sound analytical decisions — apparently because they can't face the consequences of standing up to powerful special interests on all sides of the political spectrum — we must deal with bureaucratic rumors of back-office decisions that nobody wants to own. Our congressional delegation should be sharpening their hooks. At the very least, South Dakotans deserve an explanation and a chance to make our case for the hatchery.