S.D. lawmakers allow most GFP rules, including nonresident archery deer restrictions, to take effect

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota lawmakers gave support Monday to most of the rule changes sought by the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission, including new restrictions that limit when nonresident archery deer hunters may use public lands and GFP-leased walk-in areas.

The Legislature’s Rules Review Committee however voted 6-0 to revert several changes because the term “water access area” wasn’t defined in state law or existing rules.

“This may be kind of a technical motion,” said Senator Craig Kennedy, a Yankton Democrat.

Kennedy said the Legislative Research Council, the nonpartisan staff for the Legislature, determined the proposed rules fell outside state law. Kennedy said the Game, Fish and Parks Department didn’t appeal the finding. He said the department therefore should ask the Legislature to change the law.

“That’s what needs to happen,” Kennedy said.

GFP attorney Jon Kotilnek acknowledged that “water access area” wasn’t defined in state law.

Representative Jean Hunhoff, a Yankton Republican, said she didn’t agree with Kennedy but she was in a dilemma because the phrase wasn’t in current state rules either.

“I think what happened here is the cart got before the horse,” Hunhoff said.

Hunhoff later tried, without success, to revert the nonresident archery restriction. She couldn’t get a majority of the five other lawmakers to agree.

Her point was the Game, Fish and Parks Department didn’t notify owners of walk-in areas who lease their land to the department about the proposed changes. She said she heard from a Walworth County landowner who leased ground to GFP.

Senator Lance Russell, a Hot Springs Republican, backed her, but none of the remaining four took their side.

One of the new restrictions requires nonresidents to wait until October 1 to start pursuing archery deer on public land and walk-in areas. Nonresidents can hunt deer on private land starting September 1, the same as residents. The change is an attempt to reduce competition on public lands and walk-in acres.

Another sets an August 1 date for nonresidents to apply for a 2019 license or be banned from using public lands including walk-in areas for the season. The cutoff would change to April 1 for the 2020 season and after.

Some nonresidents opposed the changes after the commission approved them in June, while some resident hunters praised them.

“It is with reluctance,” Hunhoff said. Her reason was that GFP had “no awareness” that any leaser had a related business such as a bed-and-breakfast that was economically tied to the walk-in lease.

“I just want to slow this process up,” Hunhoff said. Her goal was that the department notify walk-in leasers and then come back.

But Senator Kennedy opposed her and supported the commission and the department. “What we’re talking about here is land that is leased for public access,” he said. Kennedy added that it’s okay to make it harder for a nonresident to use public land.

Senator Alan Solano, a Rapid City Republican and the panel’s chairman, resisted reverting the nonresident restrictions. Solano said it was difficult for the department to consider every business arrangement and warned “a flat-out cap” could otherwise result.

The nonresident reversion attempt failed on a 2-4 vote. Hunhoff then called for the rules to be accepted. When Solano asked for further comment, she shook her head no. The vote was 5-1 in favor, with Russell against.

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