GFP’s plan to auction a rare bighorn license gets legislators’ OKPIERRE — One month after blocking it, the Legislature’s rules review committee gave final clearance Wednesday to the state Game, Fish and Parks Department for a bighorn sheep license to be auctioned to the highest bidder.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — One month after blocking it, the Legislature’s rules review committee gave final clearance Wednesday to the state Game, Fish and Parks Department for a bighorn sheep license to be auctioned to the highest bidder.
State Wildlife Division Director Tony Leif presented assurances that the proceeds, which have been estimated to be $60,000 to $80,000, would be spent exclusively on efforts to protect and expand the bighorn sheep population in the Black Hills.
Leif said the money would be specifically tracked on the revenue side and the spending side of the ledger. He said the money won’t be used to pay for other programs or to offset any current spending, and annual updates would be provided.
The rules committee in November had initially rejected the auction plan and sent the proposal back to the Game, Fish and Parks Commission for further work.
One step taken in response by the wildlife agency was to survey past applicants for the sheep licenses. Of about 2,400 responses, there was opposition to the auction plan from 37 percent.
The commission took up the issue again at its meeting two weeks ago and decided that two licenses would be made available to South Dakota applicants through a drawing for the 2013 season.
The commission further decided to offer a third license for the 2013 season to a bighorn sheep foundation for use in the foundation’s annual auction.
The foundation will remit the proceeds to the department.
Leif and GF&P Secretary Jeff Vonk met with Sen. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton, prior to the commission’s second round of decisions. She is chairman of the rules review panel.
GF&P Commission Chairman Jeff Olsen, of Rapid City, attended the rules review meeting Wednesday. He told the six legislators that in his eight years on the commission this was his first and only appearance before their committee.
“We think it’s a great proposal and a great direction to go,” Olsen said.
Hunhoff, in turn, publicly thanked the commission and the department for being what she described as “open minded” about the rules panel’s concerns, including about making a rare license available to possibly someone who isn’t from South Dakota.
She said the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee can track the sheep proceeds and spending as well as GF&P’s progress on rebuilding the herd numbers. She said the Legislature is increasingly focused on measuring outcomes within state government overall.
Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell, said the auction is a good way to find money to build the herd. He called the auction approach “a short-term hurt for a long-term gain.”