year-end tenting numbers, adjustments to archery deer, antelope seasons

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PIERRE, SD – At its December meeting, the Game, Fish and Parks Commission heard updates on state tourism and license sales numbers and plans and progress on dealing with aquatic invasive species.

Overall, camping numbers through Nov. 30 improved 1% from impressive 2021 numbers, even as visitor numbers in the state fell about 7% year over year.

Department heads have often emphasized that 2021 was more of an outlier due to fewer options and higher budgets for travelers during the pandemic.

“We probably figured that sooner or later our numbers would come back a little bit and visits did that for us just a little bit,” said Scott Simpson, director of parks and recreation.

In high-yield areas, revenue from the sale of hunting licenses is down approximately 2% from last year as of November 30, although some key areas have seen improvements such as: B. An almost 25% increase in resident small game licenses. Compared to the 5-year average license sales, 2022 was a 3.7% improvement.

The Parks division, where revenue is primarily driven by annual and day passes and camping services, saw revenue decline 1% year over year, although some areas saw larger declines: Custer State Park seven-day passes fell 26% return. for example.

“Although we’re seeing some things that we know to be aware of with annual pass sales and the seven-day sales into Custer State Park, let’s look at what that bottom number is, what was the total revenue into the parks division.” we’re within 1%,” Simpson said, adding that despite a small drop in sales, no budget cuts would need to be made.

A visualization of visit data this year versus the last decade.

Post / Game, Fish and Parks

Because total prevention is nearly impossible, the Aquatic Invasive Species Plan focuses on personal responsibility to slow the spread, according to the CFP

Heading into a legislative session when more questions are likely to be asked by officials about whether the department is doing everything in its power to minimize the spread of invasive species in the water, Jake Davis, the statewide administrator of the department’s aquarium program, an update at the end of the year the program against zebra mussels and other unwanted guests.

“In the end, it comes down to every user of surface water,” Davis said of recreationalists following rules like “clean, drain” and unplug their boats.

Department figures show that 96% of users have followed these instructions. Zebra mussels, the state’s most prominent invasive mollusk, continue to spread, infesting Clear Lake on October 29.

Although the department had difficulty hiring staff at watercraft inspection sites because information presented to a Legislative Committee in October indicated that inspection sites could not be expanded due to only 31 out of 53 positions being filled, Davis was not convinced that it would would help throw money into the problem slowing the advance of invasive species in the water.

“Essentially every state that has had them continues to have new discoveries. One important thing to note about these states is that they all have aquatic invasive species programs, but they all spend different amounts of money, in some cases millions of dollars,” Davis said. “The bottom line here is that in any case, we’re seeing a new annual infestation.”

Zebra, image of invasive mussels.jpg

Zebra mussels are generally small and can be identified by the distinctive stripes on their shells. If left unchecked, zebra mussels reproduce rapidly and can damage waterways and boats, and clog water treatment plants and power plants.

Post / U.S. Geological Survey

However, he added that the department is heavily focused on education, with marketing spending growing by almost half this year to $62,000. These notifications included email reminders, freeway signs during rush hours, and even commercials that were repeated on dozens of gas station televisions across the state.

The question of whether the increased funding for tackling invasive aquatic species in recent years has been worth it will certainly be raised by lawmakers in the upcoming session.

“No threshold has been found yet,” Davis said of a dollar amount to cull the spread of invasive species, pointing to Minnesota, where despite spending $10 million annually, 31 lakes were infested by new invasive species in 2021 .

The commission approves the housing of pets, recommends deer archery and antelope change

At the meeting, held in Pierre on December 8th and 9th, the commission also made progress on the admission of domestic animals in certain camping facilities in the department and recommended changes in the archery, deer and antelope season.

Pets are now allowed in select cabins or suites at campsites for a fee of USD 10 per group, per stay.

“Due to recent changes in how people travel and what society demands, we believe this proposal to allow pets into some of our facilities for a modest fee keeps us up to date with what travelers are looking for Scott Simpson Parks and Recreation Director with the department said to summarize.

To provide accommodations for people with certain allergies, the commission agreed that a percentage of the cabins and suites in each section would remain pet-free. Exact thresholds have not been established and would be flexible depending on location.

The commission was also considering changes to the state’s deer and antelope archery season that would limit the number of non-resident hunters on public lands, possibly to do with overcrowding from the recent surge in bowhunting popularity.

For the antelope archery season, the commission recommended limiting the total number of public and private non-resident land licenses to 450, down about 25% from turnout in previous years.

Similar changes have been recommended for archery game season, potentially limiting non-resident public and private land licenses to 2,200.

In either case, private land licenses for non-residents remain perpetual. These proposed changes will be finalized at the Commission’s March meeting next year, which will also include a public hearing.

Finally, regarding possible rule changes, the commission unanimously rejected three petitions for rule changes submitted by residents.

One such petition came from Pat Feterl, a Mitchell man who hoped to shorten deer season to minimize the damaging effects of roadside hunting coupled with the peak deer rutting season.

Tom Kirschenmann, the department’s wildlife director, argued that starting the season on December 1 could mean what Feterl hoped, harsh winter weather and less experience for hunters.

The 10-day proposal, Kirschenmann added, would also miss Thanksgiving weekend travelers and mean just one weekend during stag season in a few years, a point Feterl agreed.

The commission unanimously rejected the request. Two other petitions, including expanding the ability to catch Asian carp and adding an option for a third line in open water, were also unanimously rejected.

Jason Harward is a reporter for America Corps who covers state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at 605-301-0496 or [email protected]