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July 10, 2014 10:07 PM

Battle Continues Over Historic Spearfish Hatchery

Spearfish, SD

The trout business is fine these days at the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery & Archives in Spearfish. It's the money business that's a concern.

Federal budget struggles have put the popular facility along Spearfish Creek on the cutting block. Hatchery supporters led by the non-profit Booth Society won a reprieve, and Congress has put a temporary halt on all closures of federal fish hatcheries.

But that's temporary. And the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service now wants to transfer key federal fisheries archives from D.C. Booth to another service facility in West Virginia, something supporters are busy fighting, too.

"The value of having the archives here in Spearfish is hugely significant, because the archives are national in scope," The Booth Society Executive Director April Gregory said. "We get research requests from all over the nation and the world, so it really puts Spearfish on the map."

Without the archives, which include everything from old nets and outboard motors to 1880s hatchery blueprints, the whole hatchery would be more vulnerable to closure Gregory said.

And that could mean losing something that's valuable in many ways, she said.

"If the whole facility closed down, they would be missing out on having one of the two U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service archives in the country, which is very prestigious," Gregory said. "Regionally, this is the number 1 attraction for the city of Spearfish, and a very big attraction for the northern hills."

It's also a unifying cause for the state's congressional delegation, which is working to keep history alive and swimming at D.C. Booth. A spending bill approved in the U.S. House this week would help the cause by adding $18 million to the federal hatchery system's budget.

Gregory and other D.C. Booth supporters are working to have language added to the bill to prevent the transfer of fisheries archives. She said Sen. Tim Johnson, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, has already indicated he would work on that.
 

While D.C. Booth is mainly a facility preserved for its historic and educational value, as well as the archive materials helpful in research today, it also has a tourism impact -- and it maintains an ongoing role in trout stocking in the Black Hills. Each year D.C. Booth works with the state Game, Fish & Parks Department to rear tens of thousands of trout for stocking in South Dakota waters.

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