When people think of conservation many just think of habitat and protection for our upland birds and animals; often our fisheries get overlooked by the general population. However Conservation is a much larger issue than just that. Conservation not only encompasses preservation and protection of our natural resources but it also includes the science, economics and policy that is involved in all decisions regarding how our conservation dollars are allocated and where those funds come from. Sportsmen and women alike all enjoy what our amazing state of South Dakota has to offer in regards to our fisheries and great hunting opportunities; which for the most part take place on well over 5milion acres of public land here is South Dakota alone. If you haven’t seen or heard of all the controversy over the past couple years about transferring, which is a glorified way of saying “selling”, the public lands to the states or to private buyers then you may be living under a rock. However I do understand it’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the political issues in today’s society and to somehow try to understand all the political language around the issues and how it relates to you. Rest assured as a sportsmen there are many issues that have been at battle for the past couple years and whether you’re a hunter, angler, hiker, or camper, these issues affect us all. I want to make our members and all the general public aware of a current court case that directly effects our anglers and could very well be the beginning of the end it we stand by and let this continue to be the way of business.
Here is an insert from South Dakota Wildlife Federations Executive Director (SDWF) Chris Hesla, “A recent circuit court decision by a Day County Judge allowed several adjoining landowners to stop the public from using Duerre Slough in Day County. That decision could be applied to dozens or hundreds of other sloughs and lakes in South Dakota. This is just one of numerous attempts by landowners to extinguish the public’s right to access and use public waters. Other attempts to deny sportsmen/women (and children) the use of public lands and waters include vacating township roads that provide access to these lands and waters. For all practical purposes, when access is denied, public waters and lands essentially convert to private ownership”. South Dakota Walleye Unlimited (SDWU) is an affiliate of SDWF which supports the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks recommendation to file an appeal to judicially review the judge’s order. As anglers across this state we should all be aware of this court case and what it means to us and our rights to access our public waters. I understand this can be a sticky situation from a land owner’s perspective and in some cases doesn’t seem fair. However I’m also a firm believer in the Public Trust Doctrine which was created under the Magna Carta in 1215 which states such things as air, running water and wildlife are common to mankind and cannot be sold for privatization. There are over 640 million acres of public land that we all own collectively across the US and it is our sole responsibility to speak up on behalf of the wildlife that roams freely amongst it. It’s very easy to get caught up in the hustle of today’s world and not be aware of what is happening right in your back yard. Conversely, many are aware of the issues that we face being sportsmen/women but neglect to act upon it; assuming someone else will take care of it. This practice is becoming widely found amongst many conservation organizations that are being spread too thin trying to fight all these battles alone with very little support. As a single species organization (Walleye) our mission is much easier to focus on however there are organizations, such as South Dakota Wildlife Federation an affiliate of National Wildlife Federation which is the nation’s largest conservation organization with over 4.5 million members, that are fighting these battles for us each and every day. SDWU is a paid member of SDWF and supports them in any way we can to speak on behalf of our members to help us preserve our natural resources for our future generation. SDWU membership is great and growing but the voice of 3,000+ members (SDWF) is much greater than the voice of us alone. This is why we partner up with such organizations that can publicly speak and lobby for our sportsmen/women of South Dakota. The Camo Coalition is a separate entity of SDWF that is registered as a 503c6 therefore they can actively lobby and endorse political candidates that support our vision. Over the next several weeks, a few of the SDWU leaders have been invited to attend Game, Fish and Parks strategic plan steak holder sessions to discuss how SDGFP measures success in the coming years. This is a great way to represent the membership of SDWU and all anglers of South Dakota. We are much appreciative of SDGF&P to consider the anglers input is such decisions. SDWF is holding its annual meeting in Milbank, SD, on September 10th through the 11th and I plan on attending between other engagements not only as my role as National Wildlife Federation Director but as a representative of SDWU members.
Next time you’re on the water or in the field just remember who’s looking out for you to ensure you have these great places to experience. SDWF will be incurring a lot of expenses over the next few years in addition to what they have already incurred in these fights. Please lend a hand by either joining SDWF for just $25 a year or you can donate directly to them to protect your hunting and fishing heritage at http://www.sdwf.org/. We will continue to provide our support with SDWF and represent our members as much as we can but please don’t think we can do it all alone. Let your friends and neighbors know about the battles going on and to join in on the fight. Let’s keep our Public Land in the public’s hands!