Published February 04, 2013, 08:23 PM

Waterfowl bill cosponsors switch, vote no

Hunting privileges, commercialization, tourism and bird population part of debate.

By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau

PIERRE — The state House of Representatives rejected an attempt to give the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission sole authority over all waterfowl hunting licenses Monday including the allocations to non-resident hunters.

Rep. Dick Werner, R-Huron, saw his measure fail on a vote of 30 yes and 38 no, as HB 1156 became the latest attempt regarding non-resident waterfowl licenses to be blocked by lobbyists for the South Dakota Wildlife Federation.

Monday’s vote saw 17 representatives turn against legislation they had originally helped co-sponsor.

The mood came through clearly in remarks by Rep. Susan Wismer, D-Britton, who said Werner’s bill was an attempt to let people who live elsewhere enjoy the same privileges as South Dakotans.

She said it didn’t matter if they were relatives and former residents.

“To that I say, find them a job and get them to move here,” Wismer said.

The main points of contentions are the state laws that currently allow up to 4,000 10-day waterfowl licenses for certain counties and up to 2,000 three-day licenses for certain counties to be issued to non-residents.

Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, had tried last year to change state law in regard to duck hunting but gave up. He supported Werner’s proposal.

“We finally have a bill that puts science and biology where it ought to be,” Hoffman said.

But other lawmakers saw a darker intent.

“This bill will commercialize goose and duck hunting, as pheasant hunting is today,” warned Rep. Dennis Feickert, D-Aberdeen.

Rep. Spencer Hawley, D-Brookings, said making more licenses available to non-residents will lead to them leasing prime spots in the northeast for hunting mallard ducks and, in effect, locking out South Dakota hunters.

Hawley, a past member and chairman of the GFP commission, said there’s a period of approximately three weeks when the mallards migrate through.

“There’s a huge, huge competition to get on land when the ducks are there,” Hawley said.

Hunters who come to South Dakota for pheasants are puzzled why they can’t buy waterfowl licenses over the store counters too, said Rep. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark.

He said that at the same South Dakota charges an extra tax on tourism related services and goods to pay for advertising to attract tourists, the Legislature has clamped down on non-resident waterfowl hunters who want to be in South Dakota.

Werner said licensed waterfowl hunters in South Dakota have declined by nearly half during the past decade, from about 25,000 to about 13,000, while waterfowl populations have approximately doubled during that time to 6 million.

“It’s totally a social issue, I agree,” he said.

Werner began with 44 House co-sponsors. When the time came to vote, 26 stuck with him (one was excused). The 17 who switched from co-sponsors to opponents were:

Republicans Kristin Conzet, of Rapid City, Dan Dryden, of Rapid City, Mary Duvall, of Pierre, Anne Hajek, of Sioux Falls, Patty Miller, of McCook Lake, Tim Rounds, of Pierre, Jacqueline Sly, of Rapid City, Manny Steele, of Sioux Falls and Steve Westra, of Sioux Falls; and Democrats Paula Hawks, of Hartford, Troy Heinert, of Mission, Bernie Hunhoff, of Yankton, Scott Parsley, of Madison, Jim Peterson, of Revillo, Ray Ring, of Vermillion, Dean Schrempp, of Lantry and Kathy Tyler, of Big Stone City.

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