Troubling numbers show that fewer youths are hunting and fishing in South Dakota.
According to the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks meeting on Friday, sales of hunting and fishing licenses to youths have been stagnant or declining in the last decade.
A report at the meeting showed a troubling slump in license sales for youth ages 12 through 17, with last year's small-game and youth combination license sales down compared to recent past years.
This news is concerning for multiple reasons.
A good portion of the GF&P's funds for regular operations and land and wildlife management comes from license sales. We never like to see any sort of license sales decline. When that happens, GF&P has to come up with different options to fund its operations, and that can include an increase in license costs and fees.
In the 2014-15 fiscal year, GF&P spent nearly $33 million on wildlife, habitat and fish management in South Dakota. Fewer license sales means less money in each of those important management areas, which are to help ensure future generations will be able to enjoy the same experiences and opportunity that have been given to us.
And that leads us to our next point: A decline in youth license sales means passing outdoors memories down to our children has become less regular, which is sad. Every child should be introduced to the great outdoors and given a chance to catch a fish or harvest a pheasant. Those special moments stick with children for years.
So, we're asking local and state outdoor enthusiasts to sound the alarm to fix this problem. We want to see more youths in the field in 2016.
Members of Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited and other organizations should be encouraging youths to get off their phones, iPads and get outside to enjoy a new experience.
We hope South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks holds additional youth hunting events like the annual youth goose hunt in Pierre.
South Dakota is a hidden gem in our nation for hunting and fishing. We're known nationally for our pheasant hunting, but there are so many other opportunities.
Let's do a better job sharing those opportunities with our children.