SPEARFISH — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Friday afternoon that it does not intend to close any of the nation’s fish hatcheries this fiscal year, however, closures may be necessary in Fiscal 2015 “given fiscal uncertainty and growing operations costs.”
A strong grassroots campaign saved the D.C. Booth National Historic Fish Hatchery from closing this fall. Fish and Wildlife Service officials received thousands of letters, e-mails and phone calls from supporters of the Spearfish hatchery pleading to keep it open.
The service released a report Friday outlining the challenges the National Fish Hatchery System faces. It will serve as basis of discussion with stakeholders on how best to operate the system in a more sustainable manner while supporting the agency’s highest fish and aquatic conservation priorities.
“This report sounds the alarm on a hatchery system unable to meet its mission responsibilities in the current budget climate,” said Dan Ashe, the director of the service. “In the coming months through the 2015 budget process, I have directed the service to work with all of our partners to determine whether the options identified in the report, or others, are necessary and appropriate to put the system on a more sustainable financial footing.”
The announcement came as no surprise to Spearfish Mayor Dana Boke.
“It is not unexpected that they would make this announcement,” Boke said. “We knew from our trip to D.C. that the fight wouldn’t be over this year. It would go into next year.”
Boke, April Gregory, executive director of the Booth Society, Eric Davis, the former executive director of the Booth Society and Arden Trandahl, former hatchery director met with officials at the Department of Interior and Ashe in mid-September advocating for the hatchery and historic archives.
“We are putting a Band-Aid on the hatchery system. Unless we can find a way to cover costs in a more sustainable fashion, the system will eventually need surgery,” said Ashe. “The challenges we are facing are not new; however, we have reached the point where — in the absence of long-term solutions — we will have no option but to make tough choices to bring expense in line with actual revenues.”
Gregory said the Region 6 director told D.C. Booth officials on Thursday.
“The Booth Society is looking forward to working with the Regional US Fish and Wildlife office in Denver on trying to come up with realistic, creative solutions to keeping the hatchery open under the continued operation of the Service,” Gregory wrote in an e-mail to the Pioneer. “As a friends group whose main purpose is to support the service, we would not want to see them leave such a wonderful, vibrant facility with such well-established partnerships and support. We hope we can continue to serve as the friends group of the Service at D.C. Booth for many years to come.”
“I applaud the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to keep D.C. Booth Hatchery open,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. “D.C. Booth welcomes thousands of visitors from around the world to its facility each year and has an important economic impact on our state. I will continue to monitor the agency’s fiscal management and budgetary decisions as we move forward to ensure South Dakota’s interests are represented.”
Said Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D. “I’m happy to hear the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery will remain open for business through next year, but the work is not done. I understand the budgetary challenges facing our nation, which is why it’s so important that we prioritize our dollars. The D.C. Booth Historic National Fishery and Archives’ economic and educational benefits prove it is worthy for continued support in 2014 and beyond.”
“Senator Johnson welcomes the news that the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery will remain open,” said Perry Plumart, a spokesman for Sen. Tim Johnson, D- S.D.
National fish hatchery operations have been greatly impacted by sequestration, which reduced the NFHS budget, in the face of increasing operational costs. If sequestration continues into FY 2014, the service will have lost close to $6 million in appropriations for hatchery operations funding since FY 2012, while operational costs have continued to rise, according to information provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The National Fish Hatchery System: Strategic Hatchery and Workforce Planning Report outlines the current propagation programs as well as problems associated with sustaining operation of the hatchery system in its current configuration, and suggests possible changes to how the system could be managed under several different scenarios.
The report can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2013/pdf/NFHSReviewCoverPageandReport.pdf
The appendices can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2013/pdf/NFHSReportAppendices.pdf
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