CUSTER STATE PARK, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota could see several hundred more nonresidents hunting waterfowl this fall.
The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission on Thursday approved an additional 300 licenses for nonresidents.
It would bring the total to 6,300.
The current 2,000 three-day temporary nonresident licenses would rise to 2,100, while the 3,750 two, five-day nonresident licenses would go to 3,950.
Those changes now go to the Legislature’s Rules Review Committee for final clearance. The six lawmakers’ next scheduled meeting is June 13.
This marks the first time that the commission has used the authority the 2014 Legislature gave it to increase nonresident waterfowl licenses by up to 5%.
The state Division of Wildlife proposed the additional licenses.
Division director Tom Kirschenmann told the commission on Thursday that resident sales of migratory bird certificates dropped 29% in the past 17 years, falling from 33,950 in 2005 to 24,166 in 2022.
There’s been a national decline in waterfowl hunters, according to Kirschenmann. There is no cap on resident waterfowl licenses.
Kirschenmann also highlighted for the commission the division’s efforts to expand public access for waterfowl hunters. And, he said, the division typically doesn’t work with sportsmen’s groups before proposing changes in license numbers.
The commission’s voice vote was unanimous in favor. The commission’s chair, Stephanie Rissler of Vermillion, said she understood that South Dakota waterfowl hunters weren’t happy but adding 300 didn’t strike her as going too far.
Commissioner Robert Whitmyre of Webster said that revenue from nonresident license sales is important to the Game, Fish and Parks Department’s public-access programs.
The commission held a public hearing before the vote.
Among those testifying as opponents were Cody Warner of Webster, president of South Dakota Waterfowl Association; Mitch Richter, representing the South Dakota Wildlife Federation; George Vandel of Pierre, a former GFP assistant wildlife director who specialized in waterfowl management; and Jeff Olson of Rapid City, a former GFP commissioner.
Richter presented a resolution from the SDWF calling for a one-year delay so that the division could work with sportsmen on a potentially different proposal.
No one testified in favor.
Written comments broke along the general lines of nonresidents supporting the increase and many more residents opposing it.