PIERRE, S.D. — In an appearance at the state Game, Fish and Parks Department's annual habitat conservation summit, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem said she is "concerned about our culture in South Dakota," and that some of the state's hunting numbers are going in the "opposite direction" than they should.
At the Thursday, March 28, event in Pierre, Noem noted that the state is selling fewer hunting licenses than in previous years, and that youth participation in hunting and gaming is on the decline. The state's famous pheasant population is also down, with the number of pheasants in the state 65 percent lower than it was 10 years ago, Noem said.
To reverse these trends, Noem emphasized her conservation proposals that she has pushed since assuming office in January: A $1 million one-time state allocation toward pheasant habitat conservation, a bounty program targeting pheasant predators and a special license plate with proceeds going toward habitat conservation.
Noem's Thursday appearance came on the heels of her Wednesday style and form veto of Senate Bill 176, the bill passed by the Legislature that would have made her proposed $1 million allocation toward pheasant habitat. Noem attributed her rejection to a drafting error, where the funds would have come from Fiscal Year 2020's budget rather than 2019's, as she intended. She requested that the Legislature consider amending the bill to reflect her original intent when they reconvene Friday for Veto Day.
Representatives of the Game, Fish and Parks department on Thursday also discussed Noem's proposed predator bounty program, set to roll out this spring. $10 bounties will be offered per predator tail through the program from April 1 to August 31, capped at $590 per household per year. The total program will cap off at $500,000 per year.
Noem said that not only will the program help to lower predator populations, which threaten pheasant populations, but it will also help encourage more youth to participate.
Noem's proposed House Bill 1181, which would create a specialty license plate to benefit habitat conservation, failed in the Legislature earlier this month, but she and the department said they hope to pursue the measure again in the 2020 session.
For this year, the department is releasing car decals, available to South Dakotans if they make a donation to habitat conservation. The decals will be available for the 2019 hunting season.