BWF to meet with legislators

File photo The State Capitol in Pierre will be a busy place next week when the legislative session begins.

BROOKINGS – The Brookings Wildlife Federation (BWF) will host legislators from Districts 4 and 7 at an Infolunch to be held at the First Lutheran Church’s Coffeehouse on Friday, Jan. 4, at noon. The meeting is a chance for the local Federation members to provide their legislators with information about conservation issues.

District 4 is represented by Jason Kettwig and John Mills (House), and John Wiik (Sen-ate). All are Incumbents.  District 7 will be represented by Tim Reed and Doug Post (House) and V. J. Smith (Senate).  Only Reed served previously.

BWF Newsletter Editor Chuck Berry said “The State’s natural resources and environment are the basis for our quality of life and tourism industry.  Wildlife conservation and land, air, and water quality should get serious and informed discussion in Pierre.”

The BWF has had a long history of inviting legislators to their January Infolunch to jump-start that discussion here in Brookings before legislators leave for the session.”  

The BWF is an affiliate of the 3,500-member South Dakota Wildlife Federation (SDWF).  The SDWF has offices in Pierre and supports a lobbyist during the legislative session to talk with legislators about the few conservation issues that are mingled with hundreds of bills and resolutions that come up in the short, fast-moving legislative session.

The Legislature annually receives 12 – 24 proposed bills relating to fish and wildlife conservation. Most proposed legislation is about who can or cannot hunt or fish, and when and where these outdoor activities can be done.  For example, legislation was passed last year that allowed night vision equipment in certain kinds of hunting.  The Federation opposed this legislation (HB1219) on the basis of safety and poaching.

Some legislation is about fish and wildlife habitat and conservation.  For example, a 2017 bill (SB66) allowed tax benefits for conservation buffer strips around streams on private property, and a 2018 bill (HB1119) added more waterways eligible for buffer strip tax benefits. 

The SDWF has supported legislation that established outdoor recreation as a beneficial use of public water (as other states have done).  Most people might agree that recreation is a beneficial use of public waters, but including that language in state law was defeated.  

The legislative session is filled with discussions of agency budgets and outdoor enthusiasts have an interest in the budget of the Department of Game, Fish and Parks (GFP).  The GFP budget is unique because it is funded predominantly by licenses and fees paid by hunters, fishermen and campers, and by Federal funds generated from excise taxes paid on hunting and fishing equipment.  The department’s “user-pays” budget is approved by the Legislature, but the department’s budget includes few State general funds (the state parks do get some general funding).

After a bill is passed, the GFP suggests regulations and administrative rules that are within their legislative mandate.  Any changes are overseen by the GFP Commission consisting of eight members appointed by the governor for four year terms.  

Also advocating for fish and wildlife conservation in Pierre is the CamoCoalition.  The SDWF is a member of the Coalition as are The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Isaac Walton League and other conservation groups. 

The infolunch is open to the public.  The BWF is affiliated with the South Dakota Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation.  The BWF is beginning its 40th year of serving conservation information and activities to the Brookings Community. For more info contact BWF President Spencer Vaa 695-6867. 

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