At its meeting this week Thursday and Friday in Sioux Falls, the Game Fish and Parks Commission hears its first petition to close a portion of the nonmeandered waters declared open by the Legislature in its special Session last June. The Cattail Land and Cattle Company wants to kick all hunters, fishers, boaters, snowmobilers, and other non-livestock off their water.
(Their water? I thought water belonged to the public. Oh well.)
Here’s the landowners’ argument, complete with painfully overtaxed semicolons marking their six reasons for closing the portion of Cattail Lake and Kettle Lake swamping their property in Marshall County:
Cattail Land and Cattle Company LLC owns the land and in turn water body being petitioned. As a result, Cattail Land and Cattle Co LLC has a: (i) privacy interest. For example: recreational users of private waters have negatively impacted owners big game and waterfowl conservation and hunting activities by disrupting the wildlife activity; in turn snowmobilers have used frozen waters to illegally run down and kill coyotes and other game animals including entering private lands directly adjacent to the waters; (ii) safety interest. For example: potential injury or death of recreational users on the private waters could be caused by recreational users, debris or submerged objects ie. tree stumps, logs, fencing. Note: in circa 2008-09 recreational fishermen were using a motorized boat, in which boater hit a submerged tree stump causing passenger to be ejected from boat and drowning; (iii) financial interest. For example: Cattail Land and Cattle Co LLC incurs the cost and risk of ownership of our property affected by the higher water levels in the form of lost revenues (ie. livestock, agriculture or other), taxes, maintenance and liability insurance; while at the same time South Dakota State Game Fish and Parks charges an access fee to recreational users of our private property waters being petitioned. (iv) history of use interest. For example: the private property waters and adjacent lands petitioned were at one time used by indigenous people and the United States military at Fort Wadsworth/Sisseton. The property has also been used for grazing cattle, waterfall and big game hunters. Cattail Land and Cattle Co LLC owners are conservationists and preservationists in which the waters and shorelines are being preserved. (v) water quality interest. For example: each spring and fall Cattail Land and Cattle Co owners collect garbage and debris (e.g. plastic, plastic and glass bottles, minnow buckets, cans, gas/oil cans etc), from recreational users that have been accessing the private land/waters. Landowner is also interested in wildlife and fish management and research including water and habitat quality. (vi) water quantity interests. For example: Cattail Land and Cattle Co LLC owns approx. 700+ acres of the land/water being petitioned. Also please refer to Cattail Land and Cattle Co. letter (May, 25, 2017) to Respected Senator Frerichs and Representative McCleerey; Subject: Kettle and Cattail Lakes Public Access for Recreational Use [Cattail Land and Cattle Company, information submitted via online petition, South Dakota Game Fish and Parks, 2017.08.16].
There’s not much arguing with the privacy contention: chasing coyotes from the ice and onto one’s land invades one’s privacy.
The safety concern appears to ignore Section 11 of the bill passed last June, which limits landowners’ liability for such accidents under existing statute (see SDCL 20-9-12 through 20-9-18). And if the possibility of hitting a submerged tree justifies closing a lake, well, GF&P is going to have to close a lot of fishing holes.
The financial interest point doesn’t appear to justify closing the lake: the losses the company cites arise from the presence of the water, not the presence of hunters and fishers upon that water.
That the Cattail Land and Cattle Company considers itself “conservationists and preservationists” is admirable. However, they’ll need to explain to Game Fish and Parks how any of the allowed activities on the water are causing destruction of any indigenous or old military artifacts and how that destruction compares to the agribusiness activities the owners engage in on the dry portions of their property. I’m also curious to hear how the past grazing of the submerged land matters at all in deciding whether to allow current fishing above that otherwise useless land.
The water quantity argument appears… incomplete. Is the company saying that fishers are draining the lake by scooping up water and taking it home in their fish buckets?
All that said, I’m 100% behind the company’s complaint about litterbug recreational users. The owners should drop every other argument from their petition and focus on this one. If fishers and hunters can’t pick up their trash and keep the water clean, they don’t deserve to use it.
The commission opens its meeting Thursday at 1 p.m. at the Sioux Falls Ramada Hotel and Suites. It spends the first hour on Division of Administration items, then turns at 2 p.m. to the public hearing, which will include the Cattail petition.