While we debate why there aren't enough pheasants to shoot, Rep. Dick Werner (R-22/Huron) wants to turn more guns on our ducks. Rep. Werner plans to sponsor legislation that would expand non-residents' ability to get waterfowl licenses. Right now, we distribute non-resident waterfowl licenses by lottery. Werner would like to exempt from the lottery non-residents who have family in South Dakota. If you live in Minneapolis, but your dad lives in Waubay and wants to take you duck hunting, Werner wants to let Dad buy a resident license, then "sponsor" you to buy a non-resident license straight-up, guaranteed.
Werner hasn't floated his draft legislation yet, but he'll need to explain how far "family" would extend. Include siblings, cousins, grandkids, in-laws, and so forth, and one great-grandpa in Hurley could help dozens of non-residents with his DNA jump the waterfowl lottery queue. Stick with Marty Jackley's definition of family, and these privileged "Come Home to Hunt" waterfowl licenses would be limited to parents and children.
Determining the potential number of added hunters is important to determining the ecological wisdom of Rep. Werner's expansion of non-resident waterfowl licenses. Rep. Werner appears to want to increase our exploitation of a natural resource, but he has yet to make the case that there is more of this resource to exploit.
Rep. Werner's legislative neighbor Rep. Charlie Hoffman (R-23/Eureka) has expressed support for Werner's plan and invited discussion thereof on his Facebook page (participation points for Charlie!). He's drawn ayes and nays from constituents. Retired GF&P and National Park Service official John Wrede of Brookings expresses his diametrical opposition to any plan that...
- promotes recreational opportunity over conservation;
- considers non-resident opportunity over resident
- further privatizes a natural resource that belongs to everyone,
- increases commercialization of natural resources for personal gain, and
- fails miserably to follow the tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and bares no resemblance to honest resource stewardship and protection for which government is duty bound [John Wrede, Facebook comment to Rep. Charlie Hoffman, 2013.12.22].
Wrede says that ducks don't cause farm depradation, numerous wildlife populations are in sharp decline, and handing out more non-resident licenses would only make worse a wildlife situation already damaged by a long trend of prioritizing the commercialization of public resources and the interests of the landed gentry (yes, Wrede says "landed gentry").
Rep. Elizabeth May (R-27/Kyle) responds by calling GF&P and conservationists "control freaks" and imputes to Wrede membership in fascist organizations (yes, Rep. May says "fascist").
Wrede recommends Reps. Werner and Hoffman and the rest of us review State v. Kemp, a 1950 ruling by the South Dakota Supreme Court on whether the state could outlaw all nonresident hunting of migratory waterfowl (the Legislature did that in 1949). The Court held that the state has "considerable leeway in analyzing local evils and in prescribing appropriate cures." The Court then called non-resident hunters evil (yes, they said "evil"):
The local evil in South Dakota was apparent. Thousands of nonresident hunters, lured to South Dakota by an abundance of pheasants, were putting in their idle hours, and their time after getting their limit of pheasants, hunting ducks and geese. There was real danger that natural flyways and breeding ground and nursery for ducks and geese would be subject to excessive hunting and possible destruction. From experience we know that there would be no such influx of hunters except for the pheasant. Obviously the local resident who had his business or profession to occupy him was in entirely a different class from the nonresident hunter who was in South Dakota for the single purpose of hunting. The extent of duck or goose shooting by the resident was not increased or diminished to any appreciable extent by the excellent pheasant hunting. He was at home occupied with his daily tasks, hunting when he wished, but not shooting ducks or geese simply to occupy time that otherwise was not occupied. It is also a fact, too well known in South Dakota, that many nonresident hunters, not all, who have made the trip to this state perhaps at considerable expense are not satisfied unless they get their limit of everything the law allows. We conclude, therefore, that nonresidents constitute a peculiar source of evil at which the statute was aimed. Whether the legislature could prescribe some other cure to meet the evil, to many is not an open question, but be that as it may, if there is to be any leeway left in the state to prescribe an appropriate cure we must conclude that the cure prescribed is appropriate and reasonable [Justice Herbert B. Rudolph, State v. Kemp, No. 9168, 44 N.W.2d 214 (1950), Supreme Court of South Dakota].
We've moderated that 1949 ban to permit a limited number of non-resident hunters to exploit our resources. But we maintain that limit to prevent the "excessive hunting and possible destruction" of waterfowl populations foreseen by the 1950 Court. To make the case for his bill, Rep. Werner will need to go beyond the economic justifications about bringing more hunters and dollars to the state. He'll need to show that increased non-resident hunting is a sustainable activity that promotes conservation.