I grew up hunting. Dad took us big-game hunting, but it was Grandma Dorris who made bird hunting such a big part of our family culture. Still today, it’s something that brings the family together.
I know for many of you, hunting brings up similar memories. In Huron and in much of our state, pheasant hunting is more than a past time, it’s our heritage. After all, it’s no coincidence that your community is famed as the “Ringneck Nation” and home to the world’s largest pheasant.
In the last 100 years of ringneck tradition, pheasant hunting has made a big impact on Huron’s economy. In 2018, pheasant hunters spent an estimated $1 million dollars in Beadle County. From hunting licenses and gear, gas and food, and several nights in our motels and local hunting lodges, thousands of visitors pour into your community to experience the true South Dakota hunting tradition.
Recently, our pheasant numbers have declined, largely because of slimming CRP acres. With our next generation growing up in a world of technology, we also battle bringing in new, young hunters to help carry on the tradition.
If we’re committed to this heritage and want to preserve our outdoor culture, we need to proactively protect habitat. That’s where my Second Century Initiative comes in. This multi-pronged plan allocated state funds to increase resources for habitat management without raising taxes. I was grateful to see the legislature pass this bill a few months ago, and I was thrilled to see it go into effect on June 28.
As part of this initiative, we launched the nest predator bounty program focused on increasing trapping while shedding light on an historical outdoor activity for families to enjoy together. We’ve seen big successes already. Since we started this program, dozens of families have shared about the ways they’ve been inspired to get outside. One Huron dad told my office that this was one of the first times he and his son were able to connect through an activity other than video games. A grandma told us that this is a way she can spend time outside with her grandkids.
Trapping is central to wildlife management, conservation, and sustaining our state’s outdoor traditions for the next generation. I am proud of the successful participation in this program as we all work to reduce localized populations of nest predators to enhance pheasant nest success.
That’s what my habitat program is all about. It’s about getting kids into nature, exposing folks to our incredible outdoor legacy, and working together to improve habitat for the next generation.
And we’re not stopping there. I’m leveraging my relationships around the country to win over CRP and habitat advocates in Congress, the Administration, and with other governors. We’re also crowdsourcing for habitat solutions and have had hundreds of conversations with ag producers and other outdoor enthusiasts. It’s great to see so many people talking, thinking, and exploring habitat solutions. If you have an innovative idea to advance habitat, I would love to hear from you. Consider emailing me at [email protected]
As South Dakota’s Sportsman in Chief, I’m committed to preserving our habitat and way of life. Huron is strong – proven recently as you were named Community of the Year – but expanding habitat will make it even stronger. I look forward to working with you as we continue these conversations and seek solutions to preserve habitat for generations to come.