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Non-residents can shoot more South Dakota geese

January 27, 2009 at 02:07 PM

Associated Press Writer

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A bill aimed at allowing more nonresident hunters to shoot geese in northeastern South Dakota narrowly passed the state Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday.

The panel endorsed the measure 5-4 after it was changed to give the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission more authority to decide which areas of the state get some licenses.

SB2, recommended by a committee that studied the Game, Fish and Parks Department last summer, originally would have directed that 500 additional 30-day licenses for nonresident hunters be available each year in nine counties in the northeastern corner of the state.

The panel agreed to change the bill so the Game, Fish and Parks Commission, which sets hunting seasons, would decide how to allocate those licenses among regions.

Julie Johnson, representing economic promotion organizations known as Absolutely Aberdeen and Prairie Vision, said landowners in the region asked that the state allocate more nonresident licenses to northeastern counties so more hunters could shoot more geese that are damaging farm crops.

But opponents said more licenses for nonresidents will not reduce depredation by geese. Crop damage is caused earlier in the year by resident giant Canada geese, which leave before the regular hunting season starts, said former game warden Bill Antonides of Aberdeen.

The state issues 2,000 licenses for a September season aimed at controlling those resident giant Canada geese, but few nonresidents buy those licenses, Antonides said.

Resident hunters oppose having more nonresident licenses in northeastern counties because the increased commercialization of hunting means South Dakotans are losing access to good hunting land, Antonides said.

“I think it takes away from resident hunters’ chances,” he said.

Chris Hesla of the South Dakota Wildlife Federation said he also opposes more licenses in northeastern counties because they could encourage people from other states to buy land just for goose hunting, giving local residents fewer places to hunt.

Steve Nelson of the South Dakota Migratory Bird Association said the organization representing commercial waterfowl operations wants to make sure the counties along the Missouri River in central South Dakota do not lose any of their licenses.

State law allows 2,000 of the 3-day nonresident licenses to be issued each year, with up to 500 for use in the northeastern counties of Brown, Marshall, Roberts, Day, Grant, Clark, Codington, Deuel and Hamlin.

The original bill would have boosted the total to 2,500 licenses, with up to 1,000 to be available for the northeastern counties.

The modified bill keeps the total at 2,500 licenses, with the Game, Fish and Parks Commission to decide where they are allocated.

State Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Jeff Vonk did not testify. But in response to questions from the committee, Vonk said he agrees with the philosophy that the Game, Fish and Parks Commission should make decisions about where licenses are offered.

Vonk said he could support the bill if it leaves such decisions up the commission, but he said it would likely lead to a fight every year on how to allocate those nonresident waterfowl licenses.

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