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OUR VIEW: Tough to say flooded private land is public

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There’s trouble brewing in South Dakota, with landowners and outdoors enthusiasts potentially at odds again.

This time, it’s about flooded land, and who can legally access it. At present, South Dakota law generally says that any flooded land that nudges up against public property — meaning, it can be easily accessed — is therefore also open to the public.

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The issue is becoming even more heated because it tends to be happening more in the state. Although South Dakota had a couple of dry years recently, the state has generally been wet for the past decade. That means some prairie depressions have become lakes and former pastures have become wetlands.

So a farmer whose home may once have been a few hundred yards from the publicly held lake down the road may now have the waters from that lake lapping up against the farmstead. Under current law, those newly flooded acres can be accessed by the public.

Meanwhile, the farmer may still be paying taxes on the land.

This is a delicate situation, and it’s one that we’ve been told will be debated by the state Legislature in 2014.

Until we get compelling evidence to the contrary, we tend to side with landowners on this one. Maybe our opinion will change as the debate begins in Pierre.

What’s troubling is that there are probably more anglers in the state than farmers, and we hope lawmakers aren’t wooed by what will probably be a big difference in constituents for and against any proposed compromises.

St

Tough to say

flooded private

land is public

There’s trouble

brewing in South Dakota, with landowners and outdoors enthusiasts

potentially at odds again.

This time, it’s

about flooded land, and who can legally access it. At present, South

Dakota law generally says that any flooded land that nudges up

against public property — meaning, it can be easily accessed — is

therefore also open to the public.

The issue is becoming

even more heated because it tends to be happening more in the state.

Although South Dakota had a couple of dry years recently, the state

has generally been wet for the past decade. That means some prairie

depressions have become lakes and former pastures have become

wetlands.

So a farmer whose home

may once have been a few hundred yards from the publicly held lake

down the road may now have the waters from that lake lapping up

against the farmstead. Under current law, those newly flooded acres

can be accessed by the public.

Meanwhile, the farmer

may still be paying taxes on the land.

This is a delicate

situation, and it’s one that we’ve been told will be debated by

the state Legislature in 2014.

Until we get

compelling evidence to the contrary, we tend to side with landowners

on this one. Maybe our opinion will change as the debate begins in

Pierre.

What’s troubling is

that there are probably more anglers in the state than farmers, and

we hope lawmakers aren’t wooed by what will probably be a big

difference in constituents for and against any proposed compromises.

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