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South Dakota to sell publicly owned 'wild' lands that failed to turn into hunting spots

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission approved a resolution last week, in opposition to public testimony, to sell six parcels of game-production areas, including a prized nature spot on Pickerel Lake in the glacial lakes region.

Pickerel Lake S.D..jpg
Pickerel Lake is one of the deepest natural lakes in South Dakota, and spans nearly 1,000 acres. (Pickerel Lake Recreation Area photo)

WATERTOWN, S.D. — Six parcels of state-owned land — including a favorite nature spot on Pickerel Lake — will go on the auction block after the Game, Fish and Parks Commission voted to surplus the properties for failing to adequately produce game animals.

Cabin owners and vacationers to the prized glacial lake southwest of Sisseton, S.D., spoke impassionedly for preserving the property, classified as a game-production area, at a GFP Commission meeting Thursday, July 8.

The grassy, wooded stretch of 9 acres served as a last "wild place," said Dave Pearson, of Edina, Minn., whose family has had a cabin on Pickerel Lake since 1957.

"I and my family members and visitors go to this property to experience a wild place," said Pearson, noting the birdlife, native plants and water fowl common in the area.

Dan Loveland, the president of the Pickerel Lake Conservancy , told the commissioners increased use of the lake in recent years has deteriorated water quality. He said selling the Mondry property, which sits near Pickerel Lake, could lead to a new development that cuts down trees and produces harmful runoff.


"That's what happens when sensitive conservation land near a public lake becomes open to development," Loveland said.

But, ultimately, the commissioners were not swayed, voting by voice in favor of a resolution to sell the Pickerel Lake property, including five other parcels totaling nearly 200 acres and almost half-a-million dollars in value as pegged by staff as insufficiently producing animals to hunt .

Under state law , the state's 730 GPAs cover over 280,000 acres and "are managed for the production and maintenance of all wildlife," not just ducks and deer.

But during an evaluation of the properties, GFP staff found the properties in question were "meeting the needs for our agency and our customers," said Paul Coughlin, habitat supervisor with GFP, who spoke on Friday, July 9 at the second day of the commission's meeting.

"This was a piece of property that we could actually get, you know, some value for it," added Coughlin, noting "the staff really felt that given the location of the property, the limitations based on its size" the property had "limited value" for "true public hunting opportunities."

Proceeds, he added, could go to a future land acquisition.

While a number of residents voiced opposition to the plan, which they said threatened habitat and would do away with a natural place unencumbered by agricultural or commercial interests, one member of the public who lives adjacent to a parcel in Lake Poinsett said he supported selling the property.

"I am in favor of it being sold," said Kevin Grunewaldt of Brookings. "It will not be developed, and it can be maintained adequately so that we have animals and stuff there ... because I care about that."

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