LETTER: Leave Brule Hatchery legacy for futureTo the Telegram: It is our understanding DNR staff has been asked to prepare a proposal making $3 million in cuts that would include the closure of the Brule hatchery.
To the Telegram:
It is our understanding DNR staff has been asked to prepare a proposal making $3 million in cuts that would include the closure of the Brule hatchery. The idea of closing the Brule Fish Hatchery came as a shock to the citizens of the northern Wisconsin who passionately support the facility for the integral role it plays to our identity, economy and quality of life. Not only will we lose in the north, but Wisconsin sportsmen and women will lose if Wisconsin charges them the same fees but depreciates the value of their licenses by making significant cuts that affect the quality of our fisheries program.
Brule is the location of the Bois Brule River, one of the best-known trout streams in America. The Brule is visited and fished by thousands from around the world, including former presidents of the United States. The hatchery was built in 1927 with money donated by the Douglas County Fish and Game League to assure good fishing along the stream. Since its opening, the hatchery has helped maintain and diversify healthy fish populations in support of Wisconsin’s $3 billion sport fishing economy. Last year, it produced 400,000 coho salmon and brown trout bound for Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Since 1953, the hatchery has reared Brule River steelhead and rehabilitated this once decimated stock of the wild fish.
The Brule Hatchery is vital to Wisconsin’s fish production system and closing it is indefensible. It will be harmful to our local economy but will also result in a loss of production that no other hatchery will make up. As the recent report indicates, downsizing will result in shortfalls of fish needed for stocking and will affect businesses benefitting from the $3 billion economic impact, 30,000 jobs and $196 million in local and state tax revenues fishing provides annually in Wisconsin.
Fishing is big business in Wisconsin and the recent 35 percent increase in license sales demonstrates citizens are willing to support this industry. Men and women who purchase these licenses understand the cost is much more than a fee for a pleasurable experience but an investment to protect outdoor resources for tomorrow.
Notwithstanding, the vital role the hatchery plays to the state fisheries program, it is an educational center for tourists and students alike who visit the facility. For 85 years, it has served generations well. As one citizen eloquently said: “People along with presidents have traveled hundreds of miles to enjoy this special place, the Brule. The hatchery enhances the experience and enriches all who visit.”
Recently, about 60 citizens attended a meeting with Mike Staggs, Al Kaas, John Gozdzialski and us to affirm strong northern Wisconsin community support for the importance of the Brule Hatchery. Local officials and sport fishermen presented resolutions urging the department to keep the Brule facility open. These residents passionately shared their common value of stewardship and pleaded for the leaders of the DNR to promote a plan to invest instead of ignoring the state responsibility to support Wisconsin’s $3 billion sport fishing economy. They recognize that downsizing our fish production investment will lead to a degradation of Wisconsin’s fish populations.
The citizens of northern Wisconsin value the river and understand the hatchery is part of our stewardship to protect it. It is one of the special places that defines the beauty and richness of Wisconsin. As one citizen stated, “this is common property, and we must work to preserve it.” Groups like the Brule River Sportsmen’s Club Inc. are ready to step up to the plate to do whatever it takes to keep the hatchery open.
There should be no argument about the need for Wisconsin to begin reinvesting in the aging hatchery system that is unable to meet current stocking needs. We see no justification for closing the Brule facility as it serves a vital role in supporting an already under stocked state fishery. While other aging and deteriorating facilities are in immediate need of investment, the two highly productive staff members at the Brule Hatchery can continue to produce hundreds of thousands of fish without the need for any immediate major improvements.
We look forward to working with you. We are confident that sport groups across Wisconsin share the commitment of northern citizens to keep the Brule Hatchery a vital part of our fishery production program while also making the necessary investments to sustain a healthy fishery program long into the future.
We hope to meet with you and other legislators to chart a blueprint to leave this legacy for the future.
Sen. Bob Jauch, Poplar; Rep. Nick Milroy, South Range; and Rep. Janet Bewley, Ashland
Editor’s note: This letter was addressed originally to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp.