Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials
Posted April 19
Capital Journal, Pierre, April 14
New data on outdoors economics should be a call to action for all South Dakotans
Thanks to a new study commissioned by the Game, Fish and Parks Department, South Dakota has, for the first time, a really clear picture of just how valuable the state's, hunting, fishing and state park resources are.
It shouldn't be too surprising that more than $1.33 billion were directly spent in our state on outdoor recreation between October 2015 and October 2016. Nevertheless it's an impressive figure. We've reported on the study that collected this data twice this week so we won't go into too much detail of how and where the money was spent but a few things are worth reiterating.
The direct spending on outdoor recreation equates to a roughly $1.9 billion contribution to the state's economic input. More than 18,000 jobs and the roughly $534.2 million worth of salaries they generate are supported by outdoor recreation. Outdoor recreation also generated around $85.5 million dollars' worth of state and local tax revenue, according to this new study.
At a more local level, the study found that anglers spent more than $47 million fishing the Missouri River. That's no small potatoes. Keep in mind too, that Lake Oahe has long been the most popular angling destination on the Missouri River.
The truly amazing thing about all this is that much of the support for outdoor recreation, i.e. boat ramps, game production areas, state parks even public shooting ranges, isn't funded by tax dollars.
The Game Fish and Parks Department, which is in charge of managing outdoor recreation in the state, asked for just $6 million from the state's general fund for its 2018 budget. Most of the department's slightly more $90 million budget comes from user fees such as hunting and fishing licenses or park entrance fees. There also are federal excise taxes on some hunting and fishing gear that come into play.
So, for a lousy $6 million investment, the state's taxpayers who don't hunt, fish or visit state parks saw and benefited from an additional $1.9 billion worth of economic activity. That's a pretty darn good return.
This editorial isn't all sunshine and roses though. Across the United States there has been a steady decline in the number of people who hunt. The problem is likely to get worse as the baby boomers age. South Dakota, rural state though it may be, is not immune to this problem.
It's a big deal because hunters contributed more than $682 million of the state's direct spending on outdoor recreation. More than half of that total, $371 million, came from resident hunters.
Now is a good time for everyone who makes a dime or two off of hunters in the state to join efforts to Recruit, Retain and Reactivate hunters. There is a national action plan dealing with that very issue. It's called the R3 plan. The GF&P already is participating in those national efforts.
On the fishing side of things, this new economic study has come at a pivotal moment in South Dakota's history.
A few weeks ago the supreme court barred everyone in the state from using what are known as non-meandered waters because the state legislature hasn't declared recreation to be a beneficial public use of those waters. Non-meandered lakes are lakes that have naturally come into existence through flooding since the state was surveyed in 1868. Many of those lakes have become very popular, very productive fishing destinations.
Northeast South Dakota, where most of the non-meandered lakes are, has become one of the top fishing destinations in the state. And now that it has become pretty clear that fishing generates some $271.3 million worth of direct spending on everything from food to lodging in the state, there's a compelling case to be made that recreation is, in fact, a beneficial use of non-meandered water.
That, of course, isn't likely to make the owners of the now flooded land feel better about paying property taxes on the land under the water that everyone else is using. Even if the tax rate on the flooded land has been significantly reduced.
The legislature has failed three times to solve the non-meandered water problem. Hopefully, both the recent supreme court decision and this new economic data can finally inspire a successful compromise.
The Daily Republic, Mitchell, April 17
Thank a SD landowner for outdoor opportunities
A report last week from the state Game, Fish & Parks Department showed the great contributions outdoor and wildlife recreation bring to South Dakota.
An estimated $1.33 billion was spent on outdoor recreation last year in South Dakota, with the top three activities — hunting, fishing and state park visitation — accounting for nearly 90 percent of the total.
The study also reported that South Dakota's outdoor activities provide roughly 18,000 full- and part-time jobs for $520 million of income. GF&P estimates the economic impact to South Dakota at nearly $1.9 billion.
This report is great news. And it shows the importance these hobbies are for our state's economy.
But it's the landowners who need to be credited for our state's many great available outdoor experiences. If it wasn't for their practices and their appreciation for wildlife, our state wouldn't be an outdoor paradise.
The vast multitude of agricultural acreage makes South Dakota a hunting hotspot. Each year, we ask landowners to consider putting some of their property into conservation to give wildlife a place to live, and many choose to utilize the conservation reserve programs.
What we get in return is outstanding pheasant, waterfowl, turkey and other hunting opportunities.
Several of South Dakota's flooded ponds and lakes are an angler's dream — and in some cases that's because of lease agreements with private landowners who give access to these bodies of water to the public.
Many, many private landowners in South Dakota are willing to let people on their property to hunt and fish. A lot of times they do it expecting nothing in return.
As outdoor enthusiasts, it's important to stop and realize why South Dakota is a desired location to hunt and fish. It's because of the landowners.
That's why we all need to be more appreciative to the people who provide us a place to hunt and fish.
Remember to thank a landowner if they've given you access to their property. Thank a landowner if they set aside acreage for wildlife.
We love our outdoor activities in South Dakota, and we wouldn't have the available opportunities if it wasn't for the landowners.
Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, April 7
Diversity among teachers is crucial
The face of Sioux Falls is changing. More than 100 languages are spoken within our city limits. Our population's root system stretches back not just to Scandinavia, Great Britain and Germany but also to Central America, Eastern Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia - wherever there's land to stand on across the globe.
The complexion of our community grows richer every day, and nowhere is that more apparent than in our schools.
While Sioux Falls' overall population is 82 percent white, our public school district stands at 65 percent, nearly 20 percent more diverse. The percentage of minority students in the district is projected to swell from one-third to close to one-half by 2023.
Meanwhile, 97 percent of teachers are white, which raises questions about whether minority students are being put at a disadvantage by this glaring racial divide.
To their credit, the Sioux Falls School Board and district administrators are taking steps to better understand and address the issue. Local school leaders will participate in a diversity conference this summer, while a partnership with the University of South Dakota encourages students to pursue careers in education.
Board members and administrators also hope to tap the potential of the city's first- and second-generation immigrant communities. They have been more reluctant to recruit minority teachers from farther afield, citing worries about retention.
This push isn't just about diversity for diversity's sake, or do-gooder affirmative action. Studies have revealed benefits of demographic parallel between teachers and students. Minority students tend to close the so-called "achievement gap" under the instruction of educators whose background mirrors their own.
Sioux Falls schools are far from alone in struggling with a diversity gap; it's a national issue. And education isn't the only arena where we have the opportunity to improve. In its redoubled efforts to recruit officers, the Sioux Falls Police Department also aims to make the faces of law enforcement better reflect the faces of those they serve and protect.
We commend the Sioux Falls School District on its efforts so far and urge them to dig deeper. Continue to communicate with local refugee resettlement and multicultural organizations. Explore the idea of teaming with national programs like Educators Rising. Expand and emphasize student mentoring, peer tutoring and classroom aide opportunities.
This is a noble cause we as a community should all support. More importantly, it has practical, long-range implications for our city and for the ongoing exodus of young South Dakotans. We're growing bigger. We need to make sure we're growing strong.