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Shooting preserve operators invited to statewide summit, as GF&P plans a series of five

Brad Baumgartner, GF&P wildlife damage specialist, sits in his truck trying to spot a coyote out in a field east of Howard on Thursday morning. (Matt Gade/Republic)

PIERRE — The July 31 summit the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department plans for operators of private shooting preserves is part of a series, a spokeswoman said Friday.

The department held a gathering April 21 for leaders of sportsmen groups. Later this year come separate summits for recreational users and agricultural producers. The finale is a general event planned for a date still to be set for early 2019, according to Emily Kiel. She is the agency's director of strategic engagement and public relations.

Kiel said the goal of the summits is "open conversations" about sustainable habitat, public access, sustainable funding, outdoor recreation and landowner respect. The purpose is to "ensure a collective conservation voice," she said.

The forum for preserve operators, who typically offer pheasants for hunters, starts at 1 p.m. CT at the Ramkota convention center in Pierre.

"These discussions provide all groups an opportunity to listen, learn and share key issues facing South Dakota's natural resources," Kiel said.

She continued, "Building strong partnerships allows our department to promote understanding, encourage engagement and find successful solutions to complex resource management issues."

This is the first time GF&P hosted an open event for preserve operators, according to Kiel.

She said new holders of preserve permits must attend a training and information meeting that will be held in August in Pierre. Renewing permit-holders are also invited to attend, she said.

Training includes background on private shooting preserves, record and kill tag requirements, wildlife processing and storage, possession and transportation.

She said the July 31 preserve forum is free and is open to people the department invited.

Topics include challenges and issues for operators; sustainable wildlife habitat; joint conservation projects and initiatives; public access opportunities for hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing; and recreation and respect.

Kevin Robling presented an overview of the preserve summit plan Wednesday to state Game, Fish and Parks Commission members. He is the department's special projects coordinator.

Robling said the summit would look for ways that preserve operators could provide more public access. GF&P sent 228 invitations, he said.

"We hope that we do get some good participation and great discussion that day," he said.

Responded Chairman Barry Jensen of White River, "Some good information should come out of that forum."

The summit for recreational users will aim at non-consumptive users such as birders, bikers, kayakers, canoeists and backpackers, Kiel said. Also planned is a session for agricultural groups across South Dakota focused on board members and executive directors who would be invited, she said.

The big-tent event in early 2019 would bring all the groups together, according to Kiel.

"The logistics and details of this final summit are yet to be determined, but the department remains focused on carrying out each of these events," she said.

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