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april 2012 Commission Meeting

April 4-5, 2012
Brookings

Rules Proposed at this Meeting
  • None

summary

Division of Administration

Action Items
Approve minutes of the March 1-2 meeting
Additional Commissioner Salary Days
License List Requests

  • No lists this month

FY12 Budget Spending Authority Adjustment

  • Commission approved a resolution to approve transfer of funds to cover cost of one-time bonus authorized for state employees

Surplus Property: Rapid City Region Office

  • Commission approved a resolution to transfer property owned by GFP that was the former Region 1 Division of Wildlife office to the Dept. of Agriculture

Information items
License Sales Report

  • Unseasonably warm winter and spring brought some big increases in license sales over same time in 2011.
  • Combination License up 42.8%; Resident Fishing up 140.5%; Nonresident Annual Fishing up 137.9%; and Nonresident Family Fishing up 101.8%
  • Overall license sales up 49.% so far in 2012 vs. same time in 2011

FY13 Budget

  • Staff recommended budget for FY2013 at $78,977,783, a decrease of just over $3 million from FY2012

Division of Wildlife Employee Awards

  • Exemplary Public Service Award: Nick Cochran, conservation officer from Aberdeen, was honored for his work with GFP as well as his community service through church, youth groups, HuntSAFE and Bowhunter Education, Blessing of the Hunt which integrates faith and hunting, and National Night Out supporting drug and crime prevention
  • Distinguished Achievement Award: Scott Mikkelsen, wildlife investigators for his service through his work in wildlife law enforcement, especially through undercover operations; both his overt and covert work has resulted in significant results to ensure protection of outdoor resources
  • Teamwork Award: Typically given to a specific team within the Division, but in light of the massive effort required, this year the award is presented to everyone who worked to assist with the flood relief efforts; almost 3,000 man-days of work dedicated to flood work including staffing the Emergency Operations Center, sandbagging, transporting flood-related materials, patrol boats, security, search and rescue, inspect levees, assist homeowners and landowners, provide wildlife control on levees, and coordinate water closures with Governor’s office

Open Forum

  • Jim Twamley asked the Commission to consider revamping the preference system for big game drawings in South Dakota; weighted preference system after so many years, would like to see those with 15-20 or more years and to make it fair for older hunters those with highest preference points should be the ones to draw a tag; would like to see system revamped for all species of big game
  • Bill Donovan of Donovan’s Hobby and Scuba Center in Sioux Falls would like additional time on the water for divers who like to spearfish; would like open season to more lakes and a lengthening of the spearfish season; will be working with staff to put together some ideas for proposals at the October Commission meeting when fishing regulations are considered
  • Jim Beatch of Lake Hendricks Association updated the Commission on the project to control lake level that they have been working on. They have money they are willing to put forward to help with matching grants to help move the process forward and continue to create improvements for the Lake Association. They will wait to hear from GFP on what the association’s next steps will be.
  • Curt Tesch spoke about nonresident waterfowl licenses in northeastern South Dakota; 500 3-day licenses that were transferred to NE radically impacted the hunting in that area; would like to see the Commission eliminate Roberts County from area where the 3-day licenses are valid
  • Mark Whitman from Sioux Falls an avid upland game hunter looks forward to the day when GFP can purchase additional land for Game Production Areas; for average Joe that can’t afford the pay to hunt it makes sense to secure areas for pheasant production and hunting

Public Hearing @ 2 PM

Finalizations
Unattended Vehicle Park Entrance License

  • No recommended changes from proposal; sets unattended fee to match daily park entrance fee for Custer State Park at $15
  • Commission finalized as proposed

Black Hills Elk Hunting Season
--Fall herd composition surveys

  • Random counts done in fall; age ration 53 calves per 100 cows; did a sample in recent weeks on 521 elk and found 44 calves per 100 cows, down nearly 10 from what there was in the fall; about 12% of herd should be yearling cows; estimate approximately 55% annual calf survival
  • Just completed on aerial sightability of elk; estimated 170 elk in northern hills and observed 160; Unit 2 flew 33% of the unit and observed 970 elk, model estimate is 3,210; flew Wind Cave Park, estimated 950 elk and observed 915
  • A new elk research project conducted with SDSU in southwestern Hills; capture 40 adult cows, 38 were pregnant

--History of Elk Harvest

  • Elk population was growing at same time drought hit the Black Hills in the mid to late 1990s; strong push from landowners to drastically lower the elk population; elk licenses and harvest peaked around 2006 and has been reduced since then
  • Now around 4000 elk in the Black Hills; goal over the past few years has been to lower harvest and increase the elk population to around 5500; this number will depend on other factors such as a return of drought, habitat, grazing competition
  • Estimate with the current proposal would harvest around 120 antlerless elk in the Black Hills which would be part of an increasing elk population trend
  • Several areas dominated by private land have no antlerless licenses available; Unit 1 around Spearfish has issues with elk going onto private land; Unit 2 much of Unit 3 has a very good elk population; south half of Unit 3 had some of main landowner complaints a few years ago

--Commission questioned staff on details of antlerless elk permits distribution and what would happened if all antlerless elk licenses were eliminated

  • Would harvest around 50 antlerless elk with this proposal so eliminating will not affect herd so much as ability to work with landowners on depredation issues
  • Cutting antlerless elk tag numbers from 100 to 50 might still provide a measure to work with landowner depredation problems

--Motion to amend current proposal to reduce antlerless in Unit 1 from 75 to 40; Unit 2 from 100 to 50; Unit 3 keep the 80 in the south half; Unit 7 keep the 5

  • Motion passed 6-1
  • Motion to finalize the season as amended; passed 6-1

Archery Elk Hunting Season

  • No changes from proposal were recommended
  • Motion to amend to 5 antlerless elk in H1 and 5 for H2
  • Motion passed, and season was finalized as amended

CSP Any Elk Hunting Season

  • Population estimate around 150 which is a significant reduction, although there are some very good mature bulls still available
  • Proposal to reduce the number of any elk licenses from 11 to 4 with one of those 4 licenses available to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for their fund-raising raffle
  • Question about changing licenses to bull only; no fee structure in place for bull only licenses so this would be a different proposal
  • Season finalized as proposed

CSP Late Archery Elk Hunting Season

  • Proposal to close this season
  • Season finalized as proposed

CSP Deer Hunting Season

  • Proposal to offer 10 any whitetail and 2 any deer tags and remove the 35 antlerless muzzleloader tags
  • Season finalized as proposed

Prairie Elk Hunting Season

  • Proposed to adjust the number of licenses available, create a new unit in Fall River County where 50-80 elk reside outside the Black Hills, adjust season dates for Unit 9, adjust season dates in Gregory County unit to coordinate with Nebraska season in Boyd County
  • Season finalized as proposed

Bighorn Sheep Hunting Season

  • Proposal would lower the number of licenses in Unit 1 from 2 licenses to 1 license
  • Season finalized as proposed

Family Park Water Zone (Tabled in March)

  • Division of Parks has implemented a policy that allows flexibility in handling issues for people with disabilities and Division of Wildlife will look at creating a similar policy to allow for accommodation of other powered mobility devices

Hunting Season Proposals
Nonresident Waterfowl

  • No proposed changes, so season finalized with same structure as 2011
  • The US Fish and Wildlife Service will determine the actual season structure for waterfowl seasons in early August
  • The maximum number of nonresident waterfowl licenses to be issued by lottery is 4,000 special nonresident waterfowl licenses, 2,000 early fall Canada goose temporary nonresident licenses, 2,000 fall three-day temporary nonresident waterfowl licenses, and 10,000 spring snow goose temporary nonresident licenses

Special Canada Goose

  • No proposed changes, so season finalized with same structure as 2011
  • Season Dates: Oct. 20-Dec. 23
  • Open in Bennett County only
  • 800 3-tag licenses available to residents
  • 25 2-tag licenses available to nonresidents as part of Nonresident Waterfowl license quota

Tundra Swan

  • No proposed changes, so season finalized with same structure as 2011
  • Season Dates: Oct. 1 through end of light goose season
  • 1,100 resident and 200 nonresident licenses available
  • Open area to include all counties east of the Missouri River except Charles Mix, Bon Homme, Yankton, Clay, Union, Lincoln, Turner, Hutchinson and Douglas
Division of Parks and Recreation

Action items
Blood Run land purchase

  • Commission approved a resolution to purchase two parcels of property that are to become a part of the Blood Run historical site and future state park
  • Purchase price at the appraised land value of $574,500 for the 60 acres that the Parks and Wildlife Foundation previously purchased
  • Can utilize Land and Water Conservation and other fund money now available
  • The money paid to Foundation will allow the Foundation to purchase more of Nelson property for Blood Run

Information items
Revenue and Visitation Report

  • Revenue shows a 3.5% increase over same time period in 2011
  • Park visitation shows a 31.6% increase over same time period in 2011
  • Camping Units show a 387.9% increase

Big Sioux recreation area land acquisition

  • Still working on getting a 30-day notice posted so can ask action on a resolution to approve land purchase at May meeting
  • This will add 15 acres of floodplain to the past land purchase; allows a connection between land on west side of Big Sioux River and Big Sioux Recreation Area
  • Priced at $35,000 with cost divided by city of Brandon, Division of Wildlife and Division of Parks
Division of Wildlife

Information items
Elk landowner preference licenses

  • In 2011 236 any elk licenses available to Black Hills landowners with 90 issued (along with 3 antlerless elk permits) or about 19% of any elk licenses that were issued; in units with more private land ownership will issue almost all of landowner preference licenses available for any elk; harvest from landowners is just slightly higher than harvest by all elk hunters

Elk depredation program

  • Cost of elk depredation assistance programs to landowners has gone down since 2009; overall expenditures around $140,000 in contrast to 2007 when cost was over $190,000 for 62 landowners

SDSU research partnership with GFP

  • Changes made at SDSU for efficiency and enhance research
  • Now Wildlife & Fisheries, Range Science, Ecology
  • Fall census at 422 total with 342 in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences
  • 3 students Master Science Animal & Range Science; 11 MS Biological Sciences, 40 MS Wildlife & Fisheries, 1 PHD Biological Sciences, and 13 PHD in Wildlife & Fisheries
  • Extensive Service also a component with West River Range Specialist and Range Field Specialist
  • Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit is a huge part of program with GFP a partner in that program; Unit Leader Steve Chipps, Asst Leader Josh Stafford, and Asst Leader Larry Gigliotti
  • Jeff Grendler and Rocco Murano are both have offices with SDSU
  • Calendar year 2010 $2.1 million expenditures and $2.9 million in 2011
  • SD one of few states to maintain a working relationship between game and fish agency and state university; this has been a very productive partnership for both SDSU and GFP; Elk Aerial Flights study is an example of work done through this partnership; Paddlefish snagging season on Lake Francis Case is the result of another project between the two institutions

CREP Enrollment & Hunter access program update

  • 33,000 acres of woody habitat; 11,000 acres food plots; 212,000 acres nesting cover; 4,200 acres habitat fencing; 10,200 acres wetlands and grassland seedings
  • CREP Program in James River watershed 10-year CRP contract with 40% rental increase on top of what landowner would get for CRP contract; minimum 40 contiguous acres and open to year-round public hunting and fishing; just over 62,000 acres enrolled; cost $2.2 million per year; generated an additional 16,000 acres of Walk In Area associated with these CREP areas
  • About 1.1 million acres of CRP statewide, down from nearly 1.6 million acres in 2007; 225,000 acres set to expire in September; a general CRP signup will soon expire
  • Roughly 52,000 of continuous CRP available; nationwide 1 million acres of CCRP will be made available, have not announced how much each state will be allowed for this program
  • Partnerships provide Farm Bill Biologists through NRCS, Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited; provide 25 different CRP landowner workshops throughout the State of South Dakota
  • Wetland and Grassland loss is a bigger problem then loss of CRP; estimated 55,000 acres per year converted; trying to tie conservation compliance to crop insurance eligibility
  • Farm Bill Policy Work: GFP member of many farm bill program subcommittees looking to impact how programs are introduced and delivered to maximize benefits to wildlife habitat in SD
  • Possible changes to new Farm Bill could bring a smaller CRP; program consolidation with one easement program, one working lands program, end of direct payments
  • 1,301,975 acres in Walk In Area; around 140,000 in permanent habitat acres not disturbed by grazing or other practices; over 40,000 acres in special access areas such as waterfowl hunting; 1,400 cooperators statewide; cost about $2.2 million per year; last year received a grant to offer a conservation signing bonus and resulted in over 26,000 additional acres, accounts for 19% of permanent habitat acres; Upgrade Incentive at $50 per acre to upgrade existing cover on CRP to help with extra cost
  • WIA quality draws a lot of comment; different areas provide opportunity for hunting different types of game, some are intended for big game and pheasant hunters are very disappointed with what they find for cover; annual review is done each year to determine quality of cover; always trying to improve the quality of the hunting opportunity
  • Lower Oahe Waterfowl Access areas over 37,000 acres primarily for field waterfowl hunting opportunity, harvest around 2,000 geese per year; many pheasant hunters use this area
  • Controlled Hunting Access (CHAP) program with around 18,000 acres in program, cost $18,000 and received 1,800 hunter days; CHAP payment $6 per hunter as base payment up to maximum of $10 per hunter
  • Bottom Line: habitat will continue to disappear, hunting access will continue to be more difficult; continue to provide best hunting opportunity possible by offering additional incentives to landowners; continue to work with organizations in influence Farm Bill policy; will continue to work with partners to improve habitat and opportunity

Pheasant harvest and population update

  • Statewide pheasants per mile index fell from 6.54 in 2010 to 3.45 in 2011, a 46% decrease
  • Index of 3.45 still a respectable number and similar to those in 1990s and early 2000s
  • Number of residents hunters 69,120 (72,465 in 2010); nonresidents 95,077 (100,189 in 2010)
  • 1,555,000 roosters harvested in 2011 compared to 1,831,000 in 2010 (2011 9th highest in past 20 years)
  • Pre-season population estimate 6,600,000 pheasants, the 10th highest in past 20 years (9,840,000 in 2010)
  • Many counties in eastern 1/3 of state experienced decrease in harvest greater than 20%
  • Historically pheasant population directly tied to agriculture land set aside events; the more idle acres the higher the pheasant population
  • Currently still over 1 million acres in CRP, but project to be around 600,000 acres in 2017
  • Would have seen higher pheasant population in 2011 based on existing nesting habitat, but poor weather conditions in winter and spring took their toll on the population
  • Winter of 2011-12 saw milder conditions and better over-winter survival; favorable weather for spring nesting will be a great benefit to rebounding population
  • Favorable weather will not sustain population; future of pheasant population will involve maintaining nesting habitat; habitat is the most important factor for positive pheasant population

Annual hunter harvest surveys

  • Important part of biology of wildlife management to estimate hunter harvest success rate, gauge hunter satisfaction, estimate the number of hunter days afield, and solicit hunter comments
  • In 2008 started sending surveys via e-mails; in 2011 over 214,000 surveys sent via e-mail for 40 different seasons with 50-100% response online
  • 96,000 surveys mailed in 2011-12
  • Estimating hunter harvest breaks down to success by each unit; success by tag type including success of second or third tag of 2-tag and 3-tag licenses; dates of harvest; make up of harvest with adults, fawns, bucks and does
  • Hunters have opportunity to rate their hunting experience with 1 very dissatisfied to 7 very satisfied; tends to trend with level of harvest success, when numbers are down the satisfaction usually follows
  • Hunter comments are collected and distributed to all regional game managers and conservation officers to take comments into consideration for next year’s season setting
  • Additionally gather estimate for average days hunted which speaks to hunting opportunity; economic impact of a hunting season; where hunting activity was taking place (public vs. private); and participation of certain seasons such as youth seasons, resident-only season, mentored hunts

Brookings fishing pond development project

  • Pete Colson, director of Brookings Parks & Rec Department, spoke on Dakota Nature Park in Brookings
  • Started construction about 3 weeks ago and hope to have most done by next summer; $3.2 million project
  • City landfill from 1960s to 1993; four ponds dug into hardpan and land has been available to public for several years with some youth fishing programs, geo-caching, hiking/walking/running, dog training, biking, snowshoeing, and kayaking
  • Will expand education program with a nature center; environmentally friendly design; about 120 acres
  • In the future hope to add more trails, a boardwalk, shelters, prairie restoration with more plantings including berry and fruit bearing plantings, a natural playscape of logs and boulders, and a mountain bike course
  • GFP working on developing urban fishery through Todd St. Sauver and Region 3 staff; goal to expand youth fishing opportunity
  • East Pond about 5 acres with some spots 18-foot deep; stock with rainbow trout for unique fishing opportunity; some largemouth; plan to introduce smallmouth bass; stocking plan for 2012 1,250 rainbow in spring and another 1,250 in fall, also 125 adult smallmouth bass; Fishing access to include a parking area, canoe launch area, floating fishing piers, around perimeter a walking access with several points where shoreline fishing developed
  • West Pond totals about 20 acres; manage as a more traditional farm pond type of fishery with smallmouth bass, bluegill and black crappie; stocking will maintain those fish; creel surveys indicate stocking will be needed to keep fishing success where it should be; will include parking and access area, walking trails around the pond, continue to develop shore fishing access to accommodate all the users of the park

Brookings shooting range development project

  • Commission approved funding for this project a couple of years ago and GFP providing equipment for the range
  • Randy Hansen from Brookings Outdoor Learning Center, Jim Adkins and Nancy Swanson (4H)
  • Considering expanding name of Brookings Outdoor Learning Center to South Dakota Adventure Center to expand reach of the facility; 31,200 square foot facility on 3.8 acres; a non-profit organization with outreach to all types of individuals – youth (4H, area schools, Boys & Girls clubs), families, active seniors, sportsmen, SDSU students, City & County, and visitors to Brookings; will also be partnering with “Nature Adventures” from the PBS show
  • Saw need for facility to combine all shooting sports into one facility – archery, air gun, BB gun, pistol, rifle
  • Total cost of project just under $3.1 million; currently fund raising at $1.9 million ($250,000 from GFP) and need to get to $2.6 million to get initial phase of construction complete
  • Once built, the facility will be self-sustaining through membership; full membership fee for all use is estimated at $175/year for a family or $125 for an individual; can be pistol only, or archery only, or rifle only

Administrative rule reduction initiative

  • All state agencies are going through a process to reduce and simplify rules
  • GFP going through all administrative rules with a team approach
  • Have been eliminating rules that are duplicated or outdated
  • Categories include Non-controversial (consolidations or clean ups) and expect to have over 80 rules of this type; Minimal Public Input (need a more thorough review and input from high interest groups); High Profile rules (will require an extensive internal review and strategic approach for working with public)

NASP state archery tournament report

  • 3rd Annual state tournament held in Brookings at Swiftel Center a week ago; paid for through GFP funding and federal funds; 100 schools participated in NASP in 2011 and 200 schools (20,000 students) in 2012
  • 370 shooters at state tournament; Curt Robertson, former GFP hunter safety coordinator helped coordinate the state event
  • Equipment borrowed from several different groups to cover a very large need for all the participants
  • Several organizations sponsored trophies and prizes
  • Dakota Life on PBS will include a segment on NASP and the 2012 tournament sometime this summer