This time, South Dakota lawmakers tell GFP to go ahead

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Game Fish and Parks Department

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem wouldn’t give up. Neither would the state Game, Fish and Parks Department. Nor the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission.

Their persistence paid off Monday, as the Legislature’s Rules Review Committee finally allowed most of what they wanted.

The panel of lawmakers voted 5-1 to accept starting a raffle of big-game licenses to raise money for wildlife habitat and to let trapping occur through most of the summer on most public lands and improved road rights-of-way.

Members of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe also will get free entry to West Bend state recreation area. Reservation land borders the area on three sides.

The panel had previously rejected those same rules or broader versions of them.

At the same time, the commission didn’t try a second time on a reporting requirement for trappers and compromised on another key trapping proposal.

The compromise was that only live-traps will be allowed on public lands and road rights-of-way from May 1 through August 31.

Those areas have been off-limits to all trapping equipment each year starting May 1. The commission this year originally wanted the areas open to all forms of legal trapping through August 31.

The effect for trappers is they now can prepare to use those areas when the department says it’s okay.

The commission also received clearance Monday to hold a raffle for hunting licenses for one bison and three elk-deer-antelope super-tags.

There won’t be any limit on tickets a person can buy. Prices per ticket are $10 for South Dakotans and $20 for non-residents.

State Wildlife Division director Tony Leif said the drawings can be held in mid-August. He said raffle winners wouldn’t have to pay the normal prices for the licenses.

Non-residents would be limited to winning one super-tag at most.

Each of the super-tag licenses would be good for up to two years, with the winner choosing which year each elk, deer or antelope license was to be used.

Any entrant could win the license to hunt a Custer State Park bison.

Nancy Hilding, president of the Prairie Hills Audubon Society, testified against the longer-season trapping plan. She presented information from Pheasants Forever that said bounty programs don’t work.

“This is misguided. It was done behind closed doors,” she said.”I’m not really sure who likes this. It is an embarrassment to South Dakota.” 

As part of her habitat drive, Governor Noem also started giving away live traps and began a bounty program for five species of nest predators.

The department is paying South Dakota residents $10 per tail for raccoon, badger, opossum, striped skunk and red fox, up to $500,000.

Leif said Monday that more than 20,000 tails had been turned in so far.

Rep. Jon Hansen, a Dell Rapids Republican, said he thinks the nest-predator bounty program is exciting.

Hansen said the rules-review committee has a narrow scope of authority that allows it to focus on proposed rules.

“We are not a super-legislature,” Hansen said. He said issues such as time that an animal spent in a trap, the program’s cost or its effectiveness weren’t before the committee.

“Bring those concerns to Pierre in January and February,” he said.

The commission also voted 5-1 to let a long list of other rules take effect, including deer-hunting changes that will force more people to ask to use private land.

Senator Lance Russell, a Hot Springs Republican, voted against both packages.

He asked why the department hadn’t held a public meeting about the concept in Fall River County where he lives and said there had been “a huge lockout”  by private landowners there in the past decade.

“It just seems to me that we’re tone-deaf in what we’re doing,” Russell said.

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