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Consulting group suggests plans to better manage deer, elk, lion and pronghorn in SD

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission heard recommendations Thursday of how to better big game, including mountain lions, elk and antelope. (National Park Service photo)

By Bob Mercer

Capitol Correspondent

SPEARFISH — State Wildlife Division staff and the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission received their first look Thursday at the results of an outside review of big-game management.

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The report, ordered by the governor at the commission’s expense, found general strengths, some specific management weaknesses and various processes that can be improved.

Wildlife Management Institute leaders Steve Williams and Scott Williamson briefed Gov. Dennis Daugaard about the results Wednesday.

“Overall I’d say he was pleased with the report,” Daugaard aide Nathan Sanderson told the commission Thursday.

The WMI officials presented a summary of their recommendations to the commission.

Among the major suggestions are establishing or clarifying management plans and population objectives for deer, elk, lion and pronghorn antelope; and creating a Black Hillsspecific plan that jointly covers all big game.

The review strongly noted that the commission and the department don’t have management plans for deer or elk at this time.

In the deer program, the reviewers found difficulty determining what drove license recommendations year to year.

Pennsylvania-based WMI was selected from four consulting groups that responded last year to a request for proposals to conduct the review.

Commissioner Barry Jensen, of White River, said he struggles in determining “the proper amount” of information that should go to the public.

The WMI representatives said the commission should establish clear goals for communications between the staff, the public and the commission, including in the development of species management plans.

The commission had only a few questions.

“You did a real good job,” Susie Knippling, of Gann Valley, the commission’s chairwoman, told the WMI officials.

Sanderson said the report was posted on the Department of Game, Fish and Parks site on the Internet and a news release was being sent as the presentation wrapped up after about one hour.