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LETTER: All water is not public

To the Editor: They say you cannot stop an idea, but the idea that "water is public" is simply false. Waters within our borders belong to the people of the state, and rightfully so, but it is not declared "public" any more than our state's vehicl...

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To the Editor:

They say you cannot stop an idea, but the idea that "water is public" is simply false. Waters within our borders belong to the people of the state, and rightfully so, but it is not declared "public" any more than our state's vehicles, structures or funds. SD Codified Law 34A-2-2 defines "waters of the state" to include "public or private" waters.

Law 43-16-1 "The owner of land in fee has the right to the surface and to everything permanently situated beneath or above it."

Law 41-9-1 "...no person may fish, hunt, or trap upon any private land

without permission ..."

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Our Constitution's Bill of Rights declares the right "of acquiring and protecting property and the pursuit of happiness" as an inherent right. Until 2003, even the GF&P Fishing Handbooks read "TRESPASS: No person may fish private waters on private land without permission."

Why the change?

In 2003, someone in Pierre flipped that switch and it took 14 years to get it corrected by the Supreme Court. So what comes of it? An apology for those that were wronged? No.

In a state with over 700,000 acres of public fishing waters and over 5 million acres of public access hunting, we hear of anger and a push to take even more property for public fishing and access.

Surface water in any form shouldn't void someone's deed as if it is conditional. Can we discuss why cropland, pastures and wetlands harbor fish in the first place? Or why so many Game Production and Waterfowl Production Areas function as fisheries? Does our border read "South Dakota is done, stick a dock in it?"

I ask for Respect. Respect for agriculture, property rights, our deeds and our heritage. Yes, the Legislature should act on water, but water is what needs action, not private property rights.

Bob Whitmyre

Webster

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