MERCER: Booth hatchery fight about much more than producing trout
By Bob Mercer
PIERRE -- Hoopla over the D.C. Booth historic fish hatchery at Spearfish sent this scrivener scrambling to see who in federal government is trying to shut it down.
The culprit is elusive.
I looked through the 2014 budget proposal for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service submitted to Congress in April by the Obama administration.
I looked through the Senate appropriations bill and the House appropriations bill, each of which cover USFWS.
Not there, either.
I found why it might be closed, however.
President Obama wants approximately $1.552 billion -- with a b -- for USFWS in the 2014 budget year that starts Oct. 1 of this year.
That would be about $67 million over the 2013 pre-sequestration funding level of $1.485 billion, and about $76 million more than the $1.476 billion appropriated in 2012.
The Senate appropriations bill would provide about $1.518 billion for 2014. That's an increase of approximately half of what the White House requested.
The Senate is run by Democrats. The president is a Democrat. The House is run by Republicans.
Guess what? The House appropriations bill would provide about $1.06 billion. That's a cut of more than $400 million from the 2013 level.
The House and Senate bills cover much more than just the money for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
They encompass many billions for the Interior Department, the Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and assorted other federal agencies.
The House committee is using its version of the bill to square off with the Obama administration over the EPA, and over forest thinning and fighting forest fires and various other points of difference in air, ground and water policies.
All of which bring us to the bottom-line question. What do we want as U.S. citizens and taxpayers: Ever-deepening federal debt? Or truly significant budget cuts?
It's noteworthy that a shutdown of the Booth hatchery isn't specifically stated by name for closure in the House bill or the Senate bill.
The Booth hatchery is a remnant of an early time in South Dakota statehood. People decided to plant trout in Black Hills streams where trout weren't found otherwise. The same was true for Chinese ring-necked pheasants. They were privately imported and released in places such as the James River Valley.
After the Missouri River was dammed for flood control and hydropower, clear deep water of the reservoirs replaced the volatile muddy channel. The new Missouri became a good place for biologists to encourage the propagation of walleyes.
Later state Game, Fish and Parks biologists experimented with other fishery species in the reservoirs that weren't part of the pre-dam Missouri's eco-system, such as salmon, smallmouth bass, lake trout and tiger musky.
We've seen GFP encourage the spread of game species such as wild turkeys, elk, bighorn sheep and mountain goats. Some think GFP is the hand behind the return of mountain lions.
Meanwhile the buffalo are largely gone, replaced by wheat and cattle and sheep and corn and soybeans and sunflowers.
The Booth hatchery is a symbol -- of past policy, and present politics.