submitted by Constance Walter, Administrative Assistant, The Booth Society
Last week a team of four people representing the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery & Archives traveled to Washington D.C. to advocate keeping the Hatchery open with continued operations of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
April Gregory, executive director of the Booth Society, the nonprofit friends group of the Hatchery, said that although the meetings were positive and productive, it is clear the Booth Society must continue fighting to keep the hatchery open as it and several other hatcheries nationwide are still slated for closure sometime in Fiscal Year 2014.
"We are asking the public to keep writing letters to the USFWS, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and other officials to help us keep our Hatchery from closing."
Gregory; Arden Trandahl, former Hatchery director; Eric Davis, the previous executive director of the Booth Society; and Dana Boke, Spearfish Mayor, had several meetings with officials while in the nation's Capital last Tuesday and Wednesday.
The four met with officials at the Department of Interior, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), South Dakota's elected officials and others. Most importantly, the group met with the director of the USFWS, Dan Ashe, who will make the final decision on whether the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery and others will close.
In their meetings, the team from Spearfish stressed that D.C. Booth is important not only to Spearfish, but also nationally. A number of national programs are coordinated out of D.C. Booth and the Hatchery houses one of two USFWS archives, which are frequently accessed for current USFWS research and work. The team discussed the Booth Hatchery budget, reminding officials that every USFWS dollar that goes into the D.C. Booth facility is more than matched by in-kind and monetary contributions through partnerships and volunteers. They also highlighted the economic impact D.C.
Booth has on the local economy and the impact fisheries have as a whole nationwide, which tops $3 billion annually.
The group also told officials that no USFWS refuge or hatchery has such a large, well-run USFWS volunteer program with more than 14,000 volunteer hours per year (the equivalent of seven full-time employees), and welcomes more than 155,000 visitors annually. Nor do other facilities have the number of partners who work together to make the hatchery function at such a high level.
Volunteers for D.C. Booth are USFWS volunteers who come from all over the country. The Booth Society advises other refuges and hatcheries on creating and managing partnerships ; running volunteer, visitor service programs and youth programs; and advocacy. Additionally, Gregory and other Hatchery directors have been featured speakers at national conferences for friends groups.