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Youngsters get their first close-up look at river trout when they descend the stairway at the hatchery.
Youngsters get their first close-up look at river trout when they descend the stairway at the hatchery.

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.



05:06 am - Tue, August 27 2013
My opinion is that anything that has any educational worth, productive in the enjoyment for others that is basically free (or give a donation), plus the respect the hatchery deserves for it's historical value, is worth saving and not even considered to be on the "chopping block". Maybe if the government didn't "fill the bird feeder" to some of it's other "wasteful" and "non-productive" programs, a small spot in the heart of South Dakota wouldn't be a target. Have any of these leaders visited some of these places for a little perspective on their choices?...I doubt it. How about us assessing the money that is wasted on their salaries, for their "non-productive" spending, which has no educational worth or basic enjoyment for the tax payers. We put them in there, our voices and protest over a decision or idea that is horribly wrong, should have some bearing to be heard. Our representatives need to be contacted, and need to work for us on this.
10:47 am - Tue, August 27 2013
Kathy said:
Very sad news. I visited as a small child when it was still a working hatchery. The rills of sparkling water and tiny fish remain more vivid in my memory than most of the rest of the trip.

"Government spending as a percentage of our nation's GDP is too high. We can all agree on that."

No. No, we can't. Other countries spend higher percentages. Priorities are wrong. What kind of society have we become when nature, art, beauty, education, science, etc. are expendable?
10:58 am - Tue, August 27 2013
larry kurtz said:
There has been a considerable amount of flap over the US Fish and Wildlife Service move to close the DC Booth Hatchery in Spearditch, especially when facility is well-supported by tourists and locals alike. But, it's hard to imagine the Service continuing to support the raising of hybrid and non-native trout when native species are being threatened in the Missouri River basin.

It is said that trout are not native to the Hills: how that can be remains a mystery as cutthroat lived in the Platte to the south and Powder to the north. One explanation might be the concentrations of dissolved metals in the local hydrology. There is no evidence of native trout in the Little Missouri flowing north out of the Wyoming sage steppe, either. As the Black Hills has never been glaciated, the continual use of fire on the Black Hills by human inhabitants for the last ten thousand years may have rendered ancient fisheries unable to sustain salmonids: perhaps those factors combined.

It's the opinion of this interested party that USFWS should block releasing these fish into any part of the system but preventing the community to find a way to finance rearing for private ponds would be unthinkable.

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