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SB 75: VJ Smith Wants Hunters, Fishers to Pay More to Protect Habitat

In an effort to actually put some money where the Governor’s mouth is on habitat development, Senator VJ Smith (R-7/Brookings) offers Senate Bill 75, a measure to require hunters and fishers to buy a habitat stamp. Residents would pay an additional $10 a year for the privilege of killing critters; non-residents would pay $25.

Hey, since the Legislature is moving SB 180 along, maybe for non-residents we should change the SB 75 stamp to a badge and require the non-resident hunters to wear those badges in the field, so we can distinguish them from resident hunters.

The fee increase on armed outdoor enthusiasts sailed out of Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources 8–0 and the full Senate 28–4. In House Agriculture and Natural Resources Tuesday, the only opponent who testified in the Senate, Angela Ehlers from the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts, appears to have flipped and joined the proponents. But SB 75 struggled on that committee vote 8–5.

The new habitat stamp awaits House action. We’ll see how many conservatives in the larger chamber notice that, yet again, Republicans are promoting the idea of taking more money out of South Dakotans’ pockets to create more public goods.


  1. mike from iowa 2020-02-28 14:23

    Would the habitat stamp pesos be dedicated pesos only for habitat or would it be subject to Noem’s brats needing raises?

  2. Wayne B. 2020-02-28 22:07

    MFI, Cory links the text of the bill right there for you to read and answer your own question.

    While I support efforts to fund conservation from those who enjoy it, sportsmen & women are already the ones bearing the brunt of financial support. Bird watchers, hikers, cyclists, etc. don’t contribute much to preserving natural habitat.

    What’s worse, the number of hunters & fishers are declining, meaning the model is ultimately unsustainable as more and more will be prevented from partaking because of the increasing fees.

    Conservation is a universal need. Everyone should be contributing towards it. Riparian buffers and prairie potholes help prevent runoff from getting into our streams. That’s a shared good. CRP can be great habitat for pollinators and other fauna.

    Again, I don’t mind paying more, as I enjoy the great outdoors. But if preserving the environment is as important as everyone proclaims, surely we should be advocating for everyone to be contributing.

  3. mike from iowa 2020-02-29 07:21

    You may be right, Wayne B, but i am not finding any link to text, just the purpose. And I still did not see any mention of dedicated pesos.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-02-29 09:40

    Wayne makes a fair economic point: as hunting and fishing decline, we’ll need to find other revenue sources from other enjoyers of the outdoors to sustain and expand conservation efforts.

    The logical route is a general tax of some sort on everyone. As Wayne says, “conservation is a universal need.” Clean air and water, habitat for wildlife, and an overall healthy ecosystem are perhaps the most universal public good. Everyone should chip in. We can continue our user fees at the state park entrances, along the Mickelson Trail, and all that, but we should invest more from the general fund in this great public good.

    In addition to taking general funding from sales/property/income tax, we should augment conservation spending from businesses that engage in activities that harm the environment. Perhaps the habitat stamp should be required of chemical fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide dealers. How about a habitat stamp for CAFOs raising more than X head of polluting cattle per acre? How about a habitat stamp for off-road vehicles and gas-powered boats?

    Combine general taxation for the public good with targeted conservation surcharges on activities that harm conservation and perhaps discourage those harmful activities.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-02-29 09:45

    On bill linkage: I generally link to the main page of a bill, not to the text. The main bill page provides the full information with links to the original text of the bill and any amended forms, as well as links to the committee hearings, floor debates, and votes. Links to the bill text show one version of the bill and include no useful direct links back to the main bill page.

    Section 2 of SB 75 restricts the use of the habitat stamp money for habitat:

    All revenue collected from the sale of the habitat stamp provided for in § 41-6-85 shall be deposited in the game, fish and parks fund for the purposes of enhancing terrestrial habitat on public lands, providing additional public access to private lands and aquatic habitat enhancements on public waters. All fees collected from persons who only purchase fishing licenses shall be used solely for aquatic habitat and access projects in public waters. All fees collected from persons who only purchase hunting or trapping licenses shall be used solely for terrestrial habitat and public access programs. All fees collected from persons that purchase privileges to fish and hunt, or trap shall be extended equally for aquatic and terrestrial habitat. Proceeds from the habitat stamp fee collected may not be used to purchase property in fee title. The department shall deliver an annual itemized expenditure report to the Government Operations and Audit Committee [2020 SB 75, as amended in House Ag and Nat Res., 2020.02.25].

    It appears that the only way Kristi’s kids would get some of this money is if they go work on habitat projects under GF&P.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-02-29 09:49

    Oh, and Wayne, I will entertain a habitat stamp for mountain bikes. I want to see other more destructive vehicles taxed first, but I’m open to the conversation.

  7. JW 2020-02-29 10:35

    Like most everything else of similar intent, this thing fails on several fronts. There is no quality control or suitable oversight for the funds generated. There is no quantitive control of distribution for this money and therefore, we can depend that every dime is going to go east river where it is more expensive and difficult to create or maintain habitat for just pheasants. The habitat needs statewide for wildlife other than pheasants dwarfs that of the ditch parrot. There aren’t any firm criteria to force GFP to lease private land access that actually has value to wildlife and hunting success. Even a casual look now at what they lease for WIA’s would reveal a preponderance of biological deserts that wouldn’t raise or support a pocket gopher. The aquatic money will end up in some sort of vegetation control or eutrophication mitigation projects or dam repairs. Typical political approach to conservation. Raise and throw money at a problem without any understanding of the problem or it’s scope or willingness to establish quality standards for the money spent….

  8. JW 2020-02-29 11:04

    More and more of our money intended to either improve wildlife habitat or the quality of the outdoor experience is being spent to either subsidize agricultural income out of some sort of sympathy or in competition with wealthy people (in or out of state) to lease land to keep it in public access opportunity or; dissuade the property owner or his neighbors from complaining about depredation. Money is a remarkably persuasive tool to reduce the din of complaint about public wildlife on private land…… In some cases, it rises to a level resembling extortion. State Wildlife agencies have become just another source of revenue for a growing number of producers. Might as well just blend GFP into the Department of Agriculture and be done with it. Yeh it’s sarcastic but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of truth to the reality of what GFP and this legislature does and has done with hunter’s money. What good is more private land access to the hunter when there isn’t anything on it to hunt?

  9. mike from iowa 2020-02-29 11:10

    Thanks for that linkage to dedicated pesos, Master. I didn’t see one. I sear under oath and under penalty of perjury, if that was an actual crime in wingnut alternate reality world.

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