1947 to 1969 – Nonresidents were prohibited from hunting waterfowl in South Dakota
1970 to 1997 – Lots of Legislative and Commission actions were undertaken during this time period. The outright ban on nonresident waterfowl hunters was eventually repealed and license sales began in 1970. Many debates occurred in the Legislative sessions dealing with the number of licenses to be issued, costs of those licenses, length (days) of those licenses, authorities of the Legislature and/or the GFP Commission to set license numbers, set special units for some licenses and “cap” number of licenses. For the most part, the Legislature was dealing with several bills each session which dealt with the nonresident waterfowl license issues during this time period. By 1994, the Commission, acting under the “cap” set by the Legislature in 1985, authorized the “full” number of 4000 ten day licenses for nonresidents.
1997 to 1998 – The 1997 Legislative session was “lively” with several bills aimed at increasing the number of licenses, creating special “zones” for license allocation, changing NR licenses to two 5 day periods from the current 10 day period, etc. NO new bills impacting the nonresident waterfowl licenses were passed that Session, but the Commission did increase the cost of those licenses from $90 to $100. The major point of discussion that came from the 1997 Session was the extreme hunting pressure for ducks and geese along the Missouri River Counties and the need to address BOTH loss of hunter access and the licensing needs of outfitters and lodges in the areas of Sully, Hughes, and Stanley Counties (the counties of Lyman and Potter were added at a later Session). After that 1997 Session, my GFP Staff I met several times with Senators and Representatives from the three Counties, lodge owners and landowners, the Migratory Bird Association, South Dakota Wildlife Association, respective Chamber of Commerce officials, Great Lakes of South Dakota Association, the High Plains Wildlife Association and our Conservation Officers in an effort to deal with the loss of hunter access AND commercial licensing needs for NR Waterfowl allocation.
In the 1998 Session, after our year-long collaborative efforts, the GFP Department and the support groups noted above supported HB 1010 which created both a fall 3-day and spring 5 day nonresident waterfowl license. The fall 3-day temporary NR Waterfowl licenses were valid only on private property, but were NOT valid on private property leased by GFP for public hunting or on highways or other public rights-of-way. Revenue from the sale of these fall 3-day licenses are earmarked for use in acquiring, by lease, permit or other agreement in real property to be used for providing waterfowl hunting public access in the counties adjacent to the Missouri River. Additional language was added to the bill during session: “ BEFORE promulgating rules that permit the issuance of fall three-day temporary nonresident waterfowl licenses, the GFP Commission shall determine that adequate waterfowl hunting public access has been provided through the Department’s land acquisition and development fund or through other means.” To satisfy this public access requirement, the Department developed “the Lower Oahe Waterfowl Access Area”, with approximately 35 thousand acres of managed public access provided under lease by involved landowners who were seeking increased NR waterfowl licenses for the three Missouri River Counties.
In the fall of 1998, the Lower Oahe Waterfowl Access Area was operating at full capacity and 2000 NR 3 day waterfowl licenses were made available by the Commission in accordance with HB 1010. From 1998 to 2001, an average of approximately 1200 3-day temporary NR waterfowl licenses (valid for private land only) per year were sold in this Unit.
2002 – Yet another change was made by the Legislature to the NR Waterfowl License structure: After several bills failed to revise the number of ten day licenses and/or the number of days available, SB 146 narrowly passed, as amended, to make 500 of the existing 2000 3-day temporary NR waterfowl licenses in the Missouri River Unit valid for counties in eastern South Dakota (Brown, Marshall, Day, Roberts, Grant, Duel, Clark, Codington and Hamlin). The licenses also “moved “ from being valid on private land only to being valid ANYPLACE waterfowl hunting is lawful. In addition, NO additional public access opportunities were provided as a “quid-pro-quo” as required in the original legislative action of HB 1010. This action left 1500 of the original temporary 3-day NR waterfowl licenses still available in the Central unit.
From 2002 thru 2014, approximately 650 3-day temporary NR waterfowl licenses (valid for private land only) per year were sold in the Missouri River Unit. Of the 500 3-day NR waterfowl licenses transferred to the NE Counties, All 500 licenses (valid in any place open to lawful hunting) have been sold during the years 2005 thru 2014.
2003 to 2013 – The Legislature was besieged with NR Waterfowl Licenses bills that dealt with a variety of issues from removing statutory limitations on license sales and granting authority to the GFP Commission to make these determinations to providing new special duck hunting units for NR waterfowl hunters. All bills failed to pass during this time period, but the debates continued at each Session. A tongue in cheek expression often heard from several legislators was: “Oh look, another duck bill..!!”
2014 – In the 2014 Session, HB 1185 passed after being amended several times. It eventually removed statutory limitations on the number of NR waterfowl licenses (All NR waterfowl licenses) that could be issued annually and granted this authority to the GFP Commission with a restriction that ANY increase in license numbers adopted by the Commission could not exceed 5% of the proceeding year’s license allocation. In addition to the passage of this Bill came an “informal agreement” that the GFP Commission would work with GFP Department Staff to convene a “Nonresident Waterfowl Working Group” to assist the Department and the Commission in the review and recommendations related to allocation of nonresident waterfowl licenses and build consensus for recommended changes in the future. This bill, as passed, included the language noted in HB 1010 (passed in 1998) requiring the Commission to determine that adequate waterfowl hunting access has been provided prior to issuing the 3 day licenses – SDCL 41-6-18.4
NR Waterfowl License Work Group:
Between December, 2014 and March, 2015, the Work Group met three times. Work Group members were: Rep. Dick Werner, Rep. Spencer Hawley, Senator Bill Van Gerpen, Commissioner Paul Dennert, Commissioner Gary Jensen, Chuck Dieter- SD Waterfowl Assn, Chris Hesla- SDWF, Norb Barrie- NE Opportunity Group, Larry Steffen-SD Migratory Bird Assn. The Work Group functioned in an advisory capacity only and had no authority over rule-making by the Commission. In an effort to keep the public informed and to gather public comment and input during the process, a public email site for the Work Group was set up and operational beginning in January, 2015.
At the May Commission meeting, the Work Group provided its “final” recommendation to the GFP Commission, noting that, of the 12 points outlined in the recommendation, none were supported by ALL of the members of the Work Group – there was NO consensus on the recommendations.
Commission Actions: April, 2015 thru June, 2015
Parallel to the efforts of the working group, the GFP Commission made room in its April, May and June meeting agendas to take public comments on the NR Waterfowl issues. This was in addition to the public email site set up by the Department to facilitate the Working Group’s efforts. At the May Commission meeting, the Commission voted to accept the Working Group’s 12 point recommendation as a “Commission Proposal”, noting that no consensus had been reached by the Work Group, and this action convened a formal minimum 30 day public comment period. At the June, 2015 meeting, prior to taking final action on the proposal, the Commission set aside 2 hours on its meeting agenda to hear public oral comment. The Commission had committed to hearing public comment, both written and oral for a period of approximately 90 days prior to taking final action. However, during the period of January, 2015 to June 5, 2015, the GFP Commission, the Work Group and the GFP Department all gathered public input on the NR Waterfowl issues, put forth by the 2014 Legislature in HB 1185 – effectively, an approximate 180 day public comment period.!!
Over 280 pages of public comments were received. In general summary, approximately 89% were opposed to any proposed changes; 6% were in favor of changes and 5% were unclear or made further recommendations!
Another factor weighing on the Commission was/is the statutory language in SDCL 41-6-18.4: “Revenue from the sale of temporary nonresident waterfowl licenses shall be deposited in the Department’s land acquisition and development fund to be used to acquire, by lease, permit, or otherwise, interests in real property to be used for providing waterfowl hunting public access. Before promulgating rules which permit the issuance of temporary nonresident waterfowl licenses, the Commission shall determine that adequate waterfowl hunting public access has been provided through the Departments land acquisition and development fund or through other means.” This language appears in both HB-1010 (passed in 1998) and in HB 1185 (passed in 2014).
On June 5, 2015, following significant discussion, the Commission voted unanimously to reject the proposal recommended by the Work Group.
*Given in testimony before the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on HB No. 1075 by John L. Cooper