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Tougher trespass law opposed by state GF&P, sportsmen's group

PIERRE -- The South Dakota Wildlife Federation and the state Game, Fish and Parks Department paired up Tuesday to oppose a legislator's attempt to strengthen the state law against hunters trespassing on private land without permission.

The issue is scheduled to come to a head Thursday in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, wants to expand the possible penalty to three years of suspended hunting privileges. The current penalty is one year.

Brown also wants to clarify the definition so that it covers "traveling across private lands while in possession of a hunting license and a hunting firearm."

The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association supports the Brown legislation, SB 183. Brown and Stockgrowers lobbyist Jeremiah Murphy huddled after the committee hearing Tuesday with Emmett Keyser, deputy director for the state Wildlife Division.

Keyser had testified against the legislation, as did South Dakota Wildlife Federation executive director Chris Hesla of Pierre.

Hesla wondered whether the proposal would violate the federal Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Brown said the trespass law currently is difficult for prosecutors to use because the trespassers must be shown to have "knowingly" remained on private land for the purpose of hunting, fishing or trapping.

In response to a question, Keyser said he didn't know how many trespassing violations are prosecuted in a year. He estimated "less than 100."

The committee's chair, Sen. Shantel Krebs, R-Renner, said the bill would be held until the next meeting so the sides could work on a possible resolution.