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Effort to save Spearfish hatchery will continue

SPEARFISH (AP) — South Dakota officials have succeeded in keeping the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives in Spearfish open this year but that the battle will continue.

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A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report issued late last week says the hatchery system needs to make changes in the coming months to be financially sustainable. The agency said no hatcheries will close this year, but shutdowns might be necessary in fiscal 2015.

"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 agency Director Dan 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."

Spearfish Mayor Dana Boke told the Black Hills Pioneer ( ) that the report was not a surprise. Officials who traveled to Washington, D.C., in September to advocate for the Spearfish hatchery came back with the knowledge that it would be a prolonged fight, Boke said.

The Spearfish hatchery was targeted for closure in late summer due to federal budget cuts, prompting thousands of letters, emails and phone calls from supporters.

April Gregory, executive director of the nonprofit Booth Society that supports the hatchery, said the group looks forward to working with regional Fish and Wildlife Service officials "to come up with realistic, creative solutions to keeping the hatchery open under the continued operation of the service."

"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," she said.

The 117-year-old hatchery listed on the National Register of Historic Places produces as many as 30,000 rainbow trout for lakes and streams in the Black Hills each year. It also serves as an American fisheries archive, preserving records and artifacts for educational purposes. More than 150,000 people visit each year.