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Waterfowl license power shifts

PIERRE -- The Legislature is ending its management of waterfowl licenses for non-resident hunters in South Dakota and is shifting nearly all responsibility back to the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission.

The decision comes after more than a half-century of controversy about how many people from outside South Dakota can hunt ducks and geese here. Non-residents were banned from 1947 to 1969.

The current legislation, HB 1185, delegating more authority to the commission is now on its way to Gov. Dennis Daugaard for his decision whether to sign it into law.

The license total would remain at 4,000 as a minimum, with the commission allowed to increase the total by 5 percent each year. The various geographic allocations will have been eliminated from state law.

Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, was responsible for the final package. He was the lead Senate sponsor on a very different approach sought by Rep. Dick Werner, R-Huron.

Werner wanted to make non-resident licenses available to former South Dakota residents who would be hunting with current residents.

The House approved Werner's "Come Home" plan 36-32. But the South Dakota Wildlife Federation and the Daugaard administration wanted to kill it. At Brown's request the Senate overhauled it.

The Senate version stops the Legislature's practice of designating specific numbers and types of non-resident licenses for specific regions. Those powers will transfer to the commission.

Senators voted 33-2 for the new version. The House of Representatives voted 64-6 Wednesday for final legislative approval.

The final step of the transition came Thursday morning. The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee tabled a bill from Sen. Bill Van Gerpen, R-Tyndall, and Rep. Lee Qualm, R-Platte, seeking additional allocation of licenses under the old system.

The Senate had approved the Van Gerpen-Qualm bill, SB 164, two weeks ago 27-7.

GF&P Secretary Jeff Vonk briefed the commission Thursday afternoon.

"There's good and bad for you in that. It will still be a very volatile issue. You will have the opportunity to consider increases," Vonk said. "So congratulations. I suspect the governor is going to sign the bill."