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GF&P responds to big-game review with detailed plans

By Bob Mercer

Capitol Correspondent

PIERRE — After the release of a big-game management review in October, state Game, Fish and Parks Department Secretary Jeff Vonk met with Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who ordered the review.

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Vonk said he didn’t discuss the specific responses to the recommendations made in the review but provided a general overview of the approaches that will be taken.

Consultants from the Wildlife Management Institute based in Pennsylvania performed the review and delivered their report in person to the Game, Fish and Parks Commission last month.

Vonk told the commissioners Friday that he and his staff “by and large” agree with most of the recommendations. Communications improvement was one focus. Another was establishing a formal management plan for each major species of big game and keeping the plans up to date.

The department’s response lists specific projects with set timetables and personnel assignments.

Vonk told the commissioners that such level of public detail is intended to increase transparency and accountability, so anyone from the governor to citizen can see what’s supposed to be done by when and whom.

He promised he would keep the commission and the governor “in the loop” as the projects move ahead.

Wildlife Division director Tony Leif said the review was gratifying in its praise for the staff’s dedication and effort. He said the department will be better as a result.

“They did say we’re on the right path. I think they used the terminology ‘the right trajectory,’ ” Leif said.

Communications within departments and with the public must be a challenge throughout state government, said commissioner Barry Jensen, of White River.

“Communications was really gigantic in there,” Jensen said about the review. “It’s just another way of saying, ‘How do we get everybody on the same page or the same line?’ That’s the key to moving forward.”

Replied Vonk: “We would agree with you.”