GF&P hunts for better landowner
(Note: SD's governor courts language deception, making it appear that
landowners just don't understand. "If
you eliminated open fields, the guy who has a large parcel of land is
free to do what he wants to," sez
he -- and that's exactly the point. Property owners SHOULD
be free to do as they wish with their property, no matter what the
size of their property. Who determines what defines a "large
parcel of land," and why would the "large" landowners suffer
the jaundiced view painted of them by Rounds & Co., which implies
that "large" landowners might be doing something criminal
and be trying to hide such activity? Using hunting as a ruse to access
private property by Game, Fish & Parks -- or ANY such agent -- is
trespass, pure and simple. A growing number of hunters are realizing
that and respecting the SD Lockout -- in states across the nation. http://www.sdlockout.com explains
further why almost four million acres are in the Lockout. Seeking
to impinge upon "large" landowners by likening
them to criminals is a huge mistake.)
May 7, 2005
The Rapid City Journal
Rapid City, South Dakota
The embattled Game, Fish & Parks
Department will begin a public campaign to improve relations with
farmers and ranchers later this month when it forms a panel to answer
complaints and begins publishing a newsletter for landowners.
Agency Secretary John Cooper told the GF&P Commission Friday that
the Wildlife Issues Panel would hold its first meeting near the end of
the month. GF&P will also soon begin sending out a quarterly
"Landowner Matters" newsletter to thousands of South Dakota
landowners, Cooper said.
The panel and newsletter are the result
of a legislative resolution urging the GF&P to establish a panel
to answer grievances against the wildlife agency. The panel will
include GF&P commissioners, legislators, rural landowners and
"This is the start of something that hopefully will help,"
Cooper told the commission during a meeting in Custer State Park.
The public relations work comes at a time when landowners angry with
GF&P policies claim to have locked hunters out of 4 million acres
of private land, most of it west of the Missouri River. Landowner
anger centers on GF&P's so-called "open fields" policy,
where officers enter private land without permission to check hunters.
During the past two legislative sessions, opponents of that policy
have tried unsuccessfully to win legislative approval of bills
restricting open fields.
Organizers of the South Dakota lockout say the list of closed land
continues to grow, although they are unable to provide a
county-by-county list of landowners and the acres they have shut down.
Joe Logue of Oelrichs, a small-scale rancher who has persuaded several
dozen landowners with property totaling more than 120,000 acres to
join the lockout, said the issues panel and newsletter wouldn't solve
"I can't speak for everybody, but I fully believe the open-fields
policy is going to have to change before the lockout ends," Logue
said. "We're going to continue with the lockout, and we'll
probably be back to the Legislature with another bill."
Of the 60 people who signed Logue's lockout sheet, about two dozen
were urban residents who support private property rights for rural
landowners, Logue said.
Governor Mike Rounds said during a telephone interview Friday that he
was optimistic that good things would come from the issues panel and
landowners newsletter. And a renewed
commitment by Cooper to make GF&P more sensitive to landowners'
concerns also should help, he said.
"Naturally, we want to do whatever
we can to address any concerns that people might have,"
he said. "I'm a realist, and I do know that there are some folks
on either side who can't change and find little room for
Rounds said he wouldn't direct GF&P to change its
open-fields policy. The agency
simply uses a set of established legal principles to enforce wildlife
laws, he said. Those who
compare officers entering fields to check hunters with officers
entering private homes without a warrant or probable cause don't
understand open fields, he said.
"I think a lot of people have expressed it as being similar to
being able to walk in your home, and clearly there's a difference
between a warden checking somebody who's obviously hunting and one
walking into your home," Rounds said. "I think about 90
percent of the people in South Dakota understand that.
"If you eliminated open fields, the
guy who has a large parcel of land is free to do what he wants
to," he said.
Logue disagrees. Like others in the lockout movement, he believes open
fields is a clear violation of private property rights. The
lockout won't likely end until those rights are honored, he said.
Rounds has felt the effects of the lockout in his personal hunting. GF&P
commissioner Mert Clarkson, a rancher from Harding County, has closed
his land to hunting. And Clarkson's wife, Susan, helps coordinate the
lockout effort and keeps track of acreage totals.
Rounds and members of his family had hunted big game on Clarkson's
land for several years before the lockout. They haven't hunted there
since. Clarkson offered to host Rounds last year and show him public
land nearby that was open to hunting, Rounds said.
"I told Mert I appreciated it, but I
didn't want our presence up there to put pressure on Mert and his
family," Rounds said. "And I
didn't want to take a chance that my sons or I would get in the wrong
Instead, Rounds hunted near Ardmore on land not included in the
Copyright 2005, The Rapid City Journal.