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Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

By The Associated PressJune 3, 2019

Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, May 31

Noem’s pheasant hunting initiative needs better aim

In a general sense, it’s encouraging to see Gov. Kristi Noem aggressively address the issue of South Dakota’s pheasant population as it pertains to hunting and the state’s economy.

Bagging birds is big business, as evidenced by the more than $130 million spent annually by out-of-state sportsmen, helping to make tourism one of the state’s most vital industries.

Sagging pheasant numbers and shrinking habitat are problems worth solving, and Noem rolled out her Second Century Initiative — a nod to the recent 100-year anniversary of pheasant hunting — as an ambitious effort to keep the Pheasant Country reputation alive.

As to the actual details of the plan, well, that’s where things have bogged down.

The governor managed to alienate some state lawmakers and sportsmen by barreling ahead with programs funded outside standard legislative or rule-making processes, with little initial public input.

On the heels of earmarking $1 million in state funds for the preservation and expansion of pheasant habitat, Noem pushed ahead with plans to address predator control as a means of stabilizing and restoring pheasant population numbers.

This took the form of a nest predator bounty program, in which the state pays a $10 bounty for the tails of raccoons, skunks, possums, badgers and red fox. There was also a live trap giveaway program that saw the state distribute 16,000 traps at a cost approaching another $1 million.

That money came from license revenue that could have been diverted elsewhere for habitat growth, leading to questions about the unilateral authority of the Game, Fish and Parks Department to establish the bounty program and other initiatives without sufficient review.

The legislative Rules Review Committee addressed this in early May, reverting the habitat program back to the GF&P Commission amid concerns about the bounty system, the timeline to allow trapping on public land and a publicly funded reward program for submitting habitat ideas to the state.

Faced with questions about whether a sprawling amateur trapping program will achieve positive results or whether it could adversely affect the ecosystem, GF&P officials responded not with scientific conclusions but broad declarations of trap-based family bonding.

“It’s amazing to hear some of those success stories of folks that are getting their kids out trapping and how excited these kids get when they have an animal in the trap,” said GF&P deputy secretary Kevin Robling.

Such affirmations notwithstanding, the fact that Noem’s initiative is generating friction so early in the game doesn’t speak well for the rollout, which necessitated a style and form veto by the governor in late March to fix a drafting error and clarify legislative intent.

Though Noem dismissed the notion of blue-ribbon panels during her campaign, this issue of long-term conservation and habitat growth is complex and consequential enough to make a call for experts — or at least more responsiveness to public input — an appropriate next step.

The uncertain flow of federal funding makes it imperative that South Dakota develop its own stream of appropriations to protect the state’s status as a reliable hunting destination. Perhaps the most bold and impactful initiative would be to find a form of tolerable taxation to make Noem’s Second Century vision viable for decades to come.

The governor has placed appropriate emphasis on South Dakota’s time-honored tradition as a sportsmen’s paradise, mindful of the economic benefits attached to that legacy.

For the self-proclaimed Sportsman in Chief to provide lasting leadership on the issue, she’ll need to fill in some blanks and get stakeholders on board before being so ready and eager to pull the trigger.

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Rapid City Journal, May 30

Preserve solitude of Deerfield Lake

Only the silent beckoning of fish breaks from Deerfield Lake on a typical morning.

It’s easy to understand why an angler skimming its rippling waters would want to throttle up to reach a favorite spot 20 minutes sooner. If only that extra speed didn’t spoil the solitude for others.

The future of a longstanding no-wake restriction at Deerfield Lake will be considered by the Game, Fish & Parks Commission in Pierre next week. In April, an angler petitioned the commission to replace the no-wake restriction and 5 mph speed limit with a 25 mph speed limit. The public meeting begins at 2 p.m. Central time June 6 at the Ramkota Hotel. Written public comments on the proposal may be submitted through June 3 at https://gfp.sd.gov/forms/positions/ .

Public input will be a key factor in the commission’s decision.

Silence often gets overlooked when it speaks for itself. Poets occasionally can supply a voice.

“The silence sings,” writes Henry David Thoreau. “It is musical. I remember a night when it was audible. I heard the unspeakable.”

We hope other lovers of solitude will add their voices to the public record.

Deerfield Lake was created during the 1940s when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation constructed a dam on Castle Creek, 16 miles northwest of Hill City in the rural west-central portion of the Black Hills National Forest.

Deerfield’s no-wake restriction — which by definition includes a speed limit of 5 mph — is at least 55 years old, according to the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the land around the lake pursuant to a memorandum of understanding with the Bureau of Reclamation.

At 414 acres of water surface area, Deerfield is the second-largest lake in the central Black Hills, behind Pactola Reservoir’s 860 acres and ahead of Sheridan Lake’s 375 acres. Parts of Pactola and Sheridan are designated as no-wake or swimming zones, but fast boats usually make those waters too choppy for fishermen by 11 a.m. on summer weekends.

Those who support faster speeds on Deerfield say a 25 mph limit would improve fishing opportunities while keeping away noisome water skiers and jet skiers. Opponents say a 25 mph limit would ruin Deerfield’s soulfulness.

Some but not all people embrace silence in nature. For them, a restorative balm exists in hearing only those sounds which rang familiar during the first million or so years of human development.

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Madison Daily Leader, Madison, May 30

Netting must be extended at games

A young girl was injured Wednesday when a foul ball at a Houston Astros game struck her in the stands.

Foul balls or home runs hit into the stands may be part of the fan experience, but we believe that tradition needs to change to improve fan safety.

The problem isn’t typically the high fly balls that drop into the stands with fans reaching up to grab a souvenir. It’s the line drives down the first base or third base lines. These balls come in much faster, reducing reaction time and causing more injuries, sometimes serious ones.

Some baseball historians believe the first protective netting was installed behind home plate at a professional game as early as 1879. All teams adopted nets by the early 20th Century, but the size was mostly left up to the clubs. Major League Baseball required ballparks to extend their netting to at least the ends of the dugouts at the beginning of the 2018 season.

Flynn Field in Madison has good protection for all the seating areas. It would be possible to be struck if a fan is standing or walking outside the seating areas.

Some fans now are calling for nets to be extended all the way to the foul poles. We heartily endorse this idea. We’ve seen in person a serious injury when a hard-hit foul ball struck a fan in the face. Neither adults nor children should be subject to that kind of danger while they are enjoying a game, eating a hot dog or texting a friend. The combination of stronger athletes, faster pitches and a livelier ball means batted balls are traveling faster than ever. A typical line drive goes about 150 feet in one second.

Nets could easily be extended to foul poles without reducing visibility. Today’s materials technology should be able to produce thin, sturdy nets that are virtually see-through. The protection should be extended to foul poles as quickly as possible.

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