SD Not Buying More Bird Land?

September 28, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More

Say what?

We’d bet that in terms of numbers of hunters and dollars raked in, South Dakota is the numero uno destination in the world for bird hunters (including waterfowl). Has to be true for North America, anyway.

One reason for that is the sheer number of pheasants in South Dakota, which means lots of good habitat, and hunter access to them. So with that in mind it may seem a little odd that Gov. Dennis Daugaard recently put a 2-year moratorium on land purchases by the Game, Fish and Parks department (GFP).

Sort of – meaning the GFP can buy land, but only if it sells an “equivalent parcel.”

No word on whether that means acreage, cost or what. But since the GFP doesn’t use general fund dollars (state tax revenue) to fund these purchases – they’re funded by hunter fees, period – and pays property taxes like any other landowner, the move smells like…politics.

(This brings to light an important point about the fact that hunters and anglers alone fund state fish and game agencies, which nonetheless are run by state governments and are tasked with managing for all citizens. Shouldn’t they just be working for us?)

Some think agricultural interests don’t want more land taken out of production and got the governor to do their bidding. The other side of that fence is that SD might miss a chance to have even more bird land, plus an apparently minor concern that the ban temporarily may not allow hunter-landowners to conserve their land for hunting.

Ron Leathers, public finance director at Pheasants Forever (PF), was quoted as saying that the purchase ban “creates a difficult situation for hunters, but we certainly understand the motivation behind it.”

Note that South Dakota Tourism is a sponsor of PF, which obviously wants to see more pheasant hunting, more bird land preserved, and more access to that land.

A good thing is that GFP secretary Jeff Vonk told the Associated Press he doesn’t think the ban will decrease hunter access because his agency has expanded hunter-access programs. Also:

> GFP is halfway to its goal of enrolling 100,000 CRP acres, which mandate hunter access.

> It has a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase landowner payments for walk-in programs.

> 1.3 million acres are available for public hunting in SD, up from 1.2 million last year.

Of the ban, Vonk said: “We’ll make it work.”

Okay Jeff. Tell the governor that Serious birders will be watching….

Category: Habitat Conservation, Pheasants, Pheasants Forever, SD

Comments (2)

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  1. It would be interesting to see the number of hunters who self-hunt public land vs. private land with outfitters in South Dakota.

  2. David Stengel, PF member says:

    This is a great question. As a local, who hunts alone (with my dog)in small, private and public areas, I think these brochures and commercials showing showing flock shooting on bird farms to be misleading.

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