June 15, 2017

South Dakota: Special Legislative Session Passes Nonmeandered Waters Access Bill

On Monday June 12, the South Dakota Legislature passed HB 1001, which provides for public recreational use of certain waters overlying public and private property. The legislation was in response to a South Dakota Supreme Court ruling that said the legislature must determine whether members of the public can use nonmeandered waters for recreational purposes.

An interim legislative study committee began public meetings and researching the topic in April. After the release of the draft legislation on June 2, Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Dennis Daugaard called for a special session to convene on June 12 to allow the full legislature to debate and act immediately on the legislation.

HB 1001, sponsored by all four South Dakota Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chairs, defines “recreational use” of public waters as “use for outdoor sporting and leisure activities, including, but not limited to, hunting, fishing, swimming, floating, boating, and trapping.” The legislation states that nonmeandered lakes are open to recreational use unless posted. If a private landowner wants to restrict recreational use of waters overlying their property, they must install conspicuous markers to identify the area of the lake that is above their property. The landowner must then notify the Department of Game, Fish and Parks that they have posted that area, so that resources to identify public fishing and hunting areas can be updated.

The legislation also immediately reopened 28 nonmeandered lakes to public recreational use that the Department of Game, Fish and Parks closed in response to a South Dakota Supreme Court ruling in March. Private property owners who own land beneath these specific lakes are not guaranteed the right to restrict recreational use of the waters above their land. If the landowner does wish to restrict access, they must petition the Game, Fish and Parks commission to do so.

Other provisions in the bill provide limited liability for owners of private property underlying meandered or nonmeandered lakes; prohibit private property owners who restrict recreational use on waters above their property from receiving financial compensation to grant permission to fish on those restricted waters; and grants the Department of Game, Fish and Parks the authority to negotiate with landowners to acquire the recreational use of any portion of any nonmeandered lake overlying private property. All the provisions within HB 1001 are set to be expire on June 30, 2018.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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