Ranchers thank South Dakota GFP for response to drought conditions

Farm Forum

The South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Commission voted to allocate an additional 50 antlerless elk tags to help reduce grazing pressure on the Black Hills National Forest. The decision was made as part of the Elk Management Plan which calls for contingency licenses to be issued in the case of a drought.

Aaron Thompson, president of Spearfish Livestock Association said, “We really appreciate the Commission taking this step and issuing extra tags for the northern Hills areas. As drought conditions are becoming more severe in those areas, ranchers are taking steps to reduce the grazing pressure on the forest. We appreciate that South Dakota GF&P is willing to stand with us through this drought.”

The South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Commission spent considerable time debating information provided by their staff and the ranching community. The Department’s staff had originally recommended that no tags be issued at this time and that the Game Commission reevaluate the drought conditions at their October meeting.

South Dakota Stockgrowers Association also spoke in support of releasing more tags, pointing to the severe drought conditions in the northern Hills, specifically in Lawrence, Butte and Meade Counties. Elk and livestock share the grass in the land being impacted by the drought. “The Black Hills National Forest is a multiple-use forest that requires all the users to help protect the resources. We thank the Game Commission for making this tough decision.”

Thompson stated, “There is more than enough evidence of the severity of the drought to justify releasing some of these tags now. As ranchers, we have taken steps to reduce impacts to the forest by moving livestock early and hauling water. It’s not an easy decision, but it is the right decision to also remove some of the elk.”

“My organization can sympathize with the difficulty the Commission has in making decisions such as these, and I thank them for implementing the drought contingency portion of the Elk Management plan.”

According to South Dakota Game Fish and Parks staff, the antlerless elk licenses will be available for the northern Black Hills hunting units 1, 7 and 2, which are located in the northern tier of the Black Hills and the prairie areas north of Spearfish.