PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A panel of state lawmakers agreed Tuesday that people wanting to use public nonmeandered waters in South Dakota they otherwise can’t legally reach should get to walk, drive or take watercraft through nonmeandered waters that landowners have closed.
The Legislature’s Rules Review Committee decided the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission can go ahead with deciding whether to open what are called transportation lanes. The steps for creating one are complex:
— A citizen must identify a specific body of water.
— The landowner must be notified.
— The commission would decide whether to open the lane.
— If the commission does open it, the Game, Fish and Parks Department must mark the lane with buoys.
— Hunting, fishing and trapping won’t be allowed in the lane.
— The commission must annually review each lane.
The commission approved the rule earlier this year after receiving a petition. The provision was part of a 2017 package the Legislature approved in a special session on nonmeandered water.
Tom Kirschenmann, director for the state Wildlife Division, and GFP staff attorney Jon Kotilnek presented the plan to the committee Tuesday. Kirschenmann said GFP personnel would work closely with a landowner and the department’s cost would be “minimal.”
Kotilnek said there would never be a lane on the ground. “In reality, we don’t see, we don’t anticipate, very many of these transportation lanes, because it’s a very high burden for the petitioner to meet. There has to be no other legal access to that open body of water, and looking at the maps our staff have, I mean the vast majority of these bodies of water have multiple legal access points. Whether it be a section line, it doesn’t have to be an improved access to the body of water — it’s just access, so again, a section line would provide that access and not require a transportation lane,” he said.
Kirschenmann agreed. “As our staff evaluated multiple lakes, in particular the northeastern part of the state, they have come up with less than a handful, is the terminology that they have given to us that would even potentially fit this bill. So we anticipate very, very few, if any, would meet the requirements that are established here. And as Mister Kotilnek just described, as written in statute right now, it’s a pretty high standard to meet this and to apply it,” he said.
Representative Kevin Jensen said the transportation lane is similar to a person using a public section line between parcels of privately owned property to get to a place the person is allowed to hunt.
Senator Jean Hunhoff said the commission met its legal obligations in establishing the rule. “I think there are some nuances here that are new, that are developing, and I guess we’ll probably stay tuned to see what the outcome of this is,” she said.