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Outdoor lovers will shell out more money

By Bob Mercer Capitol Correspondent

PIERRE — Camping at South Dakota’s state campgrounds will cost more and most hunters, anglers and trappers will pay more for their licenses in 2014.

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The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission gave its unanimous approval Thursday in a series of votes.

Most of the written comments received by the commissioners opposed the higher prices. But at a public hearing Thursday, no one testified about the nightly rent increases for campsites and other facilities.

Only Chris Hesla of the South Dakota Wildlife Federation commented on the license fees.

Hesla said his board members were “evenly split” in their willingness to pay more to maintain GF&P services but they want to make sure the money is “well spent.”

The Wildlife Division doesn’t receive any general support from the Legislature while the Division of Parks and Recreation gets a small share.

That means pay raises and health insurance increases passed by the Legislature for state government generally have to come from within the GF&P budget.

Wildlife Division director Tony Leif said the license increases would generate about $2 million.

He said approximately $2.5 million of spending is being shifted from state sources to federal grants which have increased.

The division also plans cuts and deferments that he said will save about $2.4 million.

Some license fees were raised last year for nonresidents. They were supposed to produce about $1 million, but license sales are down this fall because of low pheasant numbers.

Leif said this is the first time in nine years that the division is seeking a general increase in license prices. He said most prices remained steady for so long because the money wasn’t needed.

Camping fees were last increased in 2011, according to Bob Schneider, of the parks division. This round of increases is expected to produce about $665,000.

Schneider said the division’s approach is to make modest increases every few years to stay abreast of rising costs for operating the campgrounds. “So we don’t get behind the eight ball,” he said.

The campsite increases generally would be less than $5, with some under $1. A firewood bundle would rise to $5 from $4.

Seventy percent of the camp sites in the state system would cost $19 per night — $15 for a preferred site plus $4 for electricity service.

For South Dakota residents, the annual fishing license would increase to $28 from $25; the annual small-game license would go to $33 from $30; and the combination license (fishing and small game) would be $55, a $5 increase.

Big-game license prices would change, too. Standard deer and antelope licenses would increase by $4.

Furbearer licenses would rise to $30 from $25.

For nonresidents, the annual fishing license would climb to $67 from $60 and big-game licenses would see increases.

There wouldn’t be any change in the small-game and preserve license prices for nonresidents. The commission raised those prices a year ago for the 2013 seasons.

Those licenses are primarily used by nonresidents who hunt pheasants. Those prices are now $121 for the 10-day small-game license and $46, $76 and $121 respectively for the one-day, three-day and annual preserve licenses.