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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Federal Fish Hatcheries On The Cutting Block Again

Well, here we go again.  The following email was received over the weekend.  Rick Nehrling is a retired USFWS Hatchery Coordinator for the Southeast Region (I'm sure I've bungled his actual title).  This will take a few minutes to scan through but well worth your time if you're an angler.

Hey Folks,

For awhile now I have heard rumblings about the Fish and Wildlife Service's Director Dan Ashe disobeying Congress again - and silently moving forward to close hatcheries with as little notice as possible to hatchery employees, State partners, Congress etc.  During this same time I have not heard anything from anybody in the Service about any proposed closures. 

Yesterday I heard from a retiree that  D.C. Booth Hatchery - Spearfish, South Dakota was one of several national fish hatcheries slated for closure effective Oct. 1, 2013.  The Service has owned and operated the DC Booth hatchery since 1896.  The hatchery provides numerous youth and public outreach programs, receives almost 160,000 visitors per year and 14,000 volunteer hours per year, and houses the only Fish and Wildlife Service fisheries archive comprised of approximately 175,000 objects related to American fish culture & management.

In checking out the internet I found the following August 29, 2013 article from the Fishing Wire: 

Officials of the D.C. Booth National Fish Hatchery in Spearfish, South Dakota may have spilled the beans on a plan by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to close many, if not all, of the nation's fish hatcheries on October 1, the beginning of the new federal fiscal year. USFWS officials have refused comment, saying they're "in the middle of a review process". April Gregory, Director of the Booth Society, the nonprofit fisheries friends group of the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery & Archive sent The Outdoor Wire an email late yesterday afternoon saying that word from "reliable contacts in Washington, D.C." say the Booth Hatchery is one of "several" national fish hatcheries set for October 1, 2013 closure." According to Gregory, The Booth Society has "committed itself" to saving the hatchery which has been open since 1896. Our reliable sources tell The Outdoor Wire other hatcheries on the chopping block are "primarily located in the south." We will keep you posted. 

The comment that "other hatcheries on the chopping block are primarily located in the south" really piqued my interest and had me looking on the internet to see what other hatcheries are being proposed for closure on October 1, 2013.  I found the following August 28, 2013 press release from "The Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council":

"Is USFWS closing National Fish Hatcheries October 1st?

Federal budget cuts are threatening to close the 117-year-old D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery in Spearfish, a non-profit group that supports the hatchery said last week.

The hatchery is one of multiple fish hatcheries across the country targeted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which is prioritizing other programs over the National Fisheries Program, according to the Booth Society Inc. The USFWS has not confirmed that a decision to close the hatchery has been made.

Even so, some officials say the USFWS plans to close many, if not all, of the nation's fish hatcheries on October 1, the beginning of the new federal fiscal year.

The federal government is planning to eliminate funding to nine Federal fish hatcheries in GA, TN, KY, UT, MO, ND, and AR, which will result in their closure. The closure of these hatcheries will have a lasting impact on local, State, and federal economies. These facilities also provide enormous ecological and social contributions to local and state communities. Nearly 7 million fish are stocked in waters across the country from only six of these hatcheries.

Planned hatchery closings

KENTUCKY- Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery
TENNESSEE- Dale Hollow and Erwin National Fish hatcheries
GEORGIA- Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery
ARKANSAS- Norfork and Greers Ferry National Fish Hatcheries
MISSOURI-Neosho National Fish Hatchery
NORTH DAKOTA-Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery
UTAH- Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery

The economic impact is tremendous - over 3,000 jobs created and a total economic output of nearly $300 million dollars is generated by privately owned businesses selling food, lodging and supplies to trout fishermen. For every dollar spent on these fishery programs a return of $67 dollars is generated in the private sector, and for each tax dollar spent producing trout, $2.34 is returned to Washington in federal tax dollars generated from private business.

It is ironic that the USFWS is celebrating the 140th year of their fisheries program; the oldest program in the agency. They are celebrating this historic event by cutting the entire fisheries program by 12.4 million dollars. They are getting a 47.9 million dollar increase in their overall budget, but have chosen to spend that money on other programs and new programs, and scrap a program that brings revenue into the federal budget at a 2.3 to 1 ratio and supports over 3,000 jobs in the private sector!!!"

If these press clippings and press releases are true then folks within the Service need to stand up NOW and fight for your program.  You need to try and stop Dan Ashe from continuing to disobey Congress and the American public - and stop his efforts to dismantle the National Fish Hatchery System.
Folks need to advocate for each hatchery proposed for closure by writing, visiting and calling your US Senators and Representatives ASAP!  Also send a letter to Director Ashe and to The Secretary of the Interior.  Remember you do not have to be a resident of a particular State to write to that State's Senator or Representative.  It is very important for everybody to get involved and fight for the hatcheries - and the National Fish Hatchery System.  It is also very important for folks within the Service to stand up and fight for your program!

Rick Nehrling

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