WATERTOWN, S.D. (KELO) — Visitors could lose some opportunities to enter South Dakota state parks and recreation areas for free, while thousands of non-residents could lose a loophole that lets them fish in South Dakota without purchasing a state habitat stamp.

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission agreed Thursday to consider both proposals when the panel meets October 5-6 in Deadwood.

One change would remove Mother’s Day and Father’s Day from the list of dates when people can enjoy state parks and recreation areas without paying entrance fees.

The third weekend of May would continue as fee-free entry, according to Jeff VanMeeteren. He is Parks and Recreation Division director for the state Department of Game, Fish and Parks.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were added as fee-free dates in 2019, VanMeeteren said. The goal was to increase use of state park areas. “The effect we hoped to create wasn’t really happening, so we would like to pull it back,” he told the commission.

The second change calls for eliminating one-day fishing licenses as an option for non-residents.

State Wildlife Division director Tom Kirschenmann presented data that showed one-day sales to non-residents increased sharply in 2020. The rise coincided with requiring nearly all license buyers to purchase habitat stamps starting that July.

However, one-day non-resident fishing licenses weren’t covered by the new habitat stamp law. That’s turning out to be financially counter-productive for the Game, Fish and Parks Department.

Here’s why: For non-residents, the one-day license price is $16, while the three-day is $37 and the annual is $67. Combined with the $25 cost of the habitat stamp that is required, the total cost is $62 for a three-day and $92 for the annual.

Annual total sales fluctuated between 20,000 and 25,000 from 2013 through 2019. In 2020, sales climbed to nearly 35,000, rose again in 2021 to nearly 45,000, and fell somewhat in 2022 to around 37,000.

Since the habitat stamp became a requirement for most non-residents and residents in 2020, many non-resident anglers have figured out the bargain that a one-day license presents and purchased four or more of them in the same year. There were 687 buyers of four-plus licenses in 2021, 582 in 2022 and 267 this year through July 31.

Kirschenmann said the department would see an estimated gain of $500,000 to $1.3 million annually as the result of eliminating the one-day option. He said the change wouldn’t have to go through the rules-making process and could be done administratively.

If the commission agrees with the elimination, the department would take the steps to make it effective December 15 when the 2024 license year starts, according to Kirschenmann. He said there “certainly” will be “lots of comments” about the proposal, including from non-residents.

Commission chair Stephanie Rissler of Vermillion asked what surrounding states offer. Kirschenmann said they have offer many options, including Minnesota, which doesn’t have year-round fishing seasons. “It is difficult to compare all of it apples to apples because there are nuances in surrounding states,” he replied.

Rissler asked what led to the proposal. Kirschenmann recalled conversations during the past decade about whether one-day licenses should be retained or eliminated, including for financial reasons. He said the one-day license was a conversation piece in 2014.

“Certainly there’s a fiscal component that plays a part of this,” Kirschenmann said. He said the change needs to be considered so that the department can do more of its priorities.

Commissioner Julie Bartling of Gregory asked whether the one-day buyers stay longer than one day. Kirschenmann said that was true in many circumstances. He said many come for a weekend or an extended weekend. “I also believe there are multiple individuals who come repeated times,” he said.

Chair Rissler said she was originally was unsure about making the change but now believes it makes sense. “I would like to support it,” she said.