U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., was in Spearfish Friday to accept an award from the D.C. Booth Society.

“Congresswoman Noem, we thank you for coming today and for being willing to accept one of our Distinguished Hatchery Friends nominations for 2017,” Booth Society Board President Steve Shuck said.

The Booth Society, the nonprofit friends group with the mission to promote, preserve, and enhance “the educational, cultural, and recreational opportunities at D.C. Booth … in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for the benefit and enjoyment of the public,” presented Noem with a plaque that reads, “In recognition of your dedicated support and advocacy as a Distinguished Hatchery Friend.” Noem also received a brick with her name on it that would be added to a walkway at the hatchery that memorializes all who have received the honor.

Noem, the sole U.S. House representative for the state of South Dakota, worked in Washington, D.C., to keep the Spearfish hatchery open, funded, and staffed, Shuck said, after federal budget constraints in 2012 brought about closure threats, reduction of staff, and the possibility of the hatchery’s archive collection moving to the East Coast.

“When closure threats first surfaced, Congresswoman Noem was quick to visit the hatchery to full understand the situation,” Shuck said. “She coordinated with the now-retired Sen. (Tim) Johnson and current Sen. (John) Thune to support D.C. Booth. Most important, she was vital in the annual House appropriation bills, stipulating federal funds could not be used to close the hatchery or move the archival collection from the facility. Over the next three years, she and her staff routinely checked in with the Booth Society for updates and ensured language was in place for the hatchery.”

He thanked Noem for all of her work in Washington, D.C.

“Thank you very much for all you’ve done for us,” he said.

April Gregory, former Booth Society executive director, was also awarded a 2017 Distinguished Hatchery Friend award during the organization’s winter mixer Jan. 19, which Noem was unable to attend. Gregory served as executive director during the closure threats, when thousands of letters of support were sent to congressional delegates, and she also traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with said delegates during this time.

Despite these added roles, Gregory continued to do all of the duties associated with her executive director position, even as the hatchery was down to one employee at one point. She managed the gift store, fundraised, organized special events, wrote grant applications, provided all of the volunteer training and visitor services, etc.

Gregory resigned as executive director to take the museum curator position at the hatchery in January and was present Friday when she and Noem were again recognized for their work over the last years.

Noem thanked the Booth Society for the recognition.

“I just want you all to know what an honor this is for me. … This is a special place, and anything I can do to be helpful and be a partner with you, I think, is a blessing to me,” she said, thanking the Booth Society for being a partner during the closure threats, describing that anything she asked for during the whole process, the society made sure happened. “We asked for letters of support, we asked for (the Booth Society executive director) to have conversations and to be an advocate to the senators’ offices, as well, to drive home the point that this was important, and you guys were perfect partners in all of it. So I’m glad we’ve had some success, and we’ve got more to do, but I think that we’re in a much better spot than we were back in 2013. That was a very uncertain time. Thank you very much.”

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