SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) –The state is getting multi-million dollar return on its $6.7 million general fund investment in the South Dakota Department of Game Fish and Parks (GFP), according to the GF&P’s fiscal year 2024 budget presentation to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Appropriations, Feb. 1.

The GF&P’s proposed budget is $119.7 million for fiscal year 2024, and about $6.7 million of that would come from the state’s general fund, according to the FY2024 budget. Federal money accounts for $31.6 million while other funds account for $81.3 million.

“The other funds include wildlife money, money generated from snowmobile use and similar,” Chris Peterson, the G&FP finance officer, said at the committee meeting.

“A 2022 analysis of the economic impact showed a $1.7 billion in direct spending in outdoor recreation in the state,” GF&P secretary Kevin Robling said at the committee meeting.

GF&P, LRC graphic of the proposed FY2024 budget and funding sources.

The $1.7 billion in economic impact was broken down into $1.4 billion in direct spending from boaters, anglers, wildlife viewers and similar and $312 million in direct spending by visitors to state parks.

In many ways, users of South Dakota’s outdoors help pay for the outdoor opportunities.

For example, the sale of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses all goes directly into the GF&P’s Wildlife Division’s operating budget.

“No general funds come to the wildlife division,” said Tom Kirschenmann, director of wildlife at GF&P.

The GF&P FY2024 budget projects revenue of $60.5 million in the wildlife division.

Hunting and fishing license fees will account for 59% of the revenue or $35.7 million in the FY2024 budget.

The state sold 79,752 nonresident hunting licenses in 2022. It sold 54,691 resident licenses.

More resident fishing licenses (105,503) were sold than nonresident (95,565) in 2022.

GF&P. LRC graphic

The GF&P will also receive a projected $18.5 million in Pittman- Robertson money and federal Dingle-Johnson money. Pittman-Robertson is a tax collected on the sale of guns, ammunition and similar.

Dingle-Johnson is a federal tax collected on items such as motorboats.

The tax money collected is distributed to states based on a formula.

Robling said the gun range near Sturgis is an example of the use of Pittman-Robertson money. Twenty years ago, most of the Pittman-Robertson money came from the sale of guns and ammunition to hunters, Robling said. Recently, about 80% of the money came from outdoor recreational users of guns and ammunition.

“It’s our obligation to give some back to the recreational shooters in return,” Robling said.

The GFP collected $18.5 million in Pittman-Robertson money in 2022.

“One of our key priorities is the habitat development and access,” Kirschenmann said.

“About $21 million of the $66.2 million in the operations and capital improvement part of the wildlife division budget will be used for habitat,” he said.

Parks and recreation

“We have a very robust state park system,” said GFP deputy director Scott Simpson. Simpson is the former GF&P’s director of parks and recreation. Simpson said the state park system rivals that of a system in any state.

“The proposed FY2024 parks and recreation operations budget is $31.1 million,” Simpson said.

Record camping numbers and the steady trend of high state park visitors numbers has prompted a requested increase the parks and recreation budget. The state had 396,397 camping nights and 7.2 million visitors at state parks.

Good Earth State Park.

Simpson said the request is for an increase of $764,000 based on inflation. “The largest share of that is $549,000 to keep pace with increased costs of utilities and other supplies,” Simpson said. “Increased use at state parks means increased costs,” he said.

The remaining $220,000 would be for increased costs in recruitment and retention of seasonal employees and related increased personnel costs.

The parks and recreation division also proposes a $5.8 million reduction in its capital development budget. The amount would be reduced from $21.6 million to $15.8 million in FY2024.

Simpson said this was a planned decrease. “The capital improvement budget increased after the 2019 flooding damaged some state parks. The COVID pandemic in 2020 also increased the capitol budget,” he said.

The budget includes $12.8 infrastructure, water and trail maintenance and improvements.

The parks and recreation division projects $51.6 million in revenue for FY2024. Park revenue will provide 53% or $27.5 million of that funding. The state’s general fund would provide $5.7 million.