It's a battle that the Black Hills Fly Fishers have been fighting since 1980, keeping the wild trout populations in the Black Hills wild and thriving. The organization has been taking steps towards that goal in the last year and was recognized for it in October.
At the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Commissioner's meeting at the Outdoor Campus West in Rapid City, the group was recognized for donating $145,000 for projects throughout the Black Hills that are on-going or have been recently completed.
"The Black Hills Fly Fishers is a group that contributes a lot, not just financially but they’re also a very positive user group for us," regional fisheries supervisor Jake Davis said. "So they have multiple projects they’ve committed funds to, and these could be anything from fishing piers to mainstream habitat improvements, design work to increase (fish) connectivity in the Black Hills."
BHFF has 170 members, collects $7,000 to $10,000 in dues every year, and holds an auction each March in which it auctions off items such as fishing trips and gear. President David Hanna said the auction brings in $23,000 to $26,000 per year.
Hanna said the group started small and focused on raising money to "promote habitat and sustain cold, clear water for the trout habitat." In the last 20 years the group has begun to raise money more aggressively for more projects.
Recently, GF&P came in and started working with BHFF. Both sides said the partnership has worked out well so far.
"With having something like this where the group has funds available, it really makes things move a lot faster because rather then bare the whole burden of a project by ourselves, we can partner with them, so instead of doing one or two projects, we can do maybe three or four," Davis said. "Groups like this are very much users of that resource (the streams). They very often see the same kind of red flags that we do, so it makes it easy for us to work with them to identify areas that need specific habitat improvements and areas that need to be looked at in further detail."
The group currently has funds committed to seven projects, which Hanna said is a lot of projects and a lot of money for the organization. He said the group had been saving up for a few years so it was able to make the $145,000 commitment.
The group has devoted $35,000 to phase two of the Pactola Basin Project and another $35,000 for a Spearfish Habitat improvement project.
The second phase of the Pactola Basin Project consists of stream bank protection approximately a mile below the dam and in the Placerville Church Camp area.
The habitat improvements to Spearfish Creek will happen from where the water is diverted from the stream in an aqueduct to Hydro Plant No. 2 or the old Homestake Power Plant. The project is set to begin in Fall of 2018 and will feature stream bank preservation work.
A lot of the other projects take place in Rapid City, including $10,000 that was set aside for planting more trees and other vegetation along Rapid Creek. Davis said although the results from this project won't be seen for another 20-30 years, it's important to start thinking about rising stream water temperatures now.
"Prevents increased solar radiation and increased rising temperatures. In Rapid City, we start to see some issues when we run into hot summers, this is a way to keep the stream as cool as possible," Davis said. "It's the idea that this is long-term protection for the stream. We have a lot of projects that may have instant benefits, however, we want to look into the future as much as we can, so if we can do things now that benefit the stream in 20-30 years, that's very important as well."
Other BHFF contributions include $25,000 for a flood plain analysis (to see if future projects will impact the flood plain) and $15,000 for a project that will place boulders in different parts of the creek in Rapid City to measure differences in water level and the speed the water flows.
There will also be $15,000 for a memorial fishing pier in honor of Dan Landguth, who was a long time member of the organization. The pier will be located at Outdoor Campus West and has already been ordered.
In addition, the group has set aside $10,000 for the design and construction of fish ladders in Rapid City. Certain areas have dams, and the ladders will encourage more movement for the fish.