A U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service official says the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery In Spearfish may escape closure announced last August.
Acting Assistant Regional Director of Fisheries and Aquatic Conservation Larry Gamble said Tuesday in a phone interview from his Lakewood, Colorado, office the agency hopes to keep the historic 1898 Spearfish hatchery open with most of its displays now seen by 155,000 visitors a year.
However, the bulk of 175,000 artifacts in the Booth's national fisheries archive may merge with 15,000 artifacts at the National Conservation Training Center In West Virginia. Gamble said proponents argue a one-stop location is cost effective and will benefit historians and scientific researchers.
The nonprofit Booth Society disagrees and says reducing or moving the archives will kill the hatchery. A 2007 Black Hills State University economic impact study says D.C. Booth operating purchases and visitor spending add $2 million to the Spearfish economy a year.
Gamble said the federal government spends $400,000 annually on Booth. The society handles the hatchery’s visitor services and fundraising, generating 70 percent of the Booth’s operating revenues. Despite that role, society Executive Director April Gregory says visiting fisheries service officials reviewed the archives on Monday and Tuesday without consulting her group or other supporting agencies. The city of Spearfish and South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks also are involved in hatchery operations.
Gregory said the hatchery’s funding efforts hinge on keeping the popular archives in Spearfish. Items range from historic records to tiny tracking devices attached to fish to railcars that hauled loads of fingerlings for stocking Western waterways.
"The archives are an amazing treasure for the Black Hills region to have, because they are national in significance, as well as utilized by researchers worldwide. It's a huge economic impact, it brings in a lot of people, visitors, volunteers who wouldn't come here otherwise," she said.
Fish And Wildlife Service spokesman Gamble said more study is needed to determine costs and benefits of the proposed changes. He said there is no deadline to announce the Booth hatchery plans.
Moving the smaller West Virginia collection to Spearfish is not among options, Gamble said.
Potential closure of the D.C. Booth Hatchery upsets visitors like Amber and Joseph Adams. They brought their children from Texas to see Mount Rushmore, but they left the southern Black Hills for Spearfish when they learned about the hatchery.
"Kids love feeding fish and I would just be sad to even think that somebody would close something like this," Amber said.
"I mean, there's an excellent amount of possibilities for field trips that come here and see this place,” Joseph added. “And the fact is, it's family oriented and you know, it's free."