|  07/10/2013

PF Praises S.D. Governor for Lifting State Land Acquisition Moratorium

It’s Pheasants Forever member Frank Alvine’s wish to see his 1,000-acre Calico Canyon Ranch end up in as a public property in the hands of the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department. Photo by John Pollmann

Pheasants Forever is praising South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard for ending a two-year moratorium on land acquisitions by the state’s Game, Fish & Parks Department (GFP). The decision will allow GFP – and sometimes with the partnership of Pheasants Forever – to periodically acquire land that can be permanently protected as wildlife habitat and opened for public recreation and hunting.
Currently, GFP’s Wildlife Division owns less than 0.6 percent of the land in South Dakota.  While land acquisitions by themselves cannot offset the drastic reductions in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage in South Dakota (which has fallen to less than 1 million acres), new public parcels can be a valuable, and most importantly, permanent, conservation asset. They’re also purchased with revenue from hunting license sales and financial support from partners (such as Pheasants Forever) as opposed to tax dollars.
“Owning land that is specifically managed to benefit wildlife and those sportsmen and women who buy hunting licenses is an important tool used by GFP in our efforts to provide habitat and accessible hunting opportunity,” says GFP secretary Jeff Vonk. “Having this option as well as the other tools we use — such as our walk-in program through private-land leases and habitat incentives on private lands — will provide the greatest flexibility and success as our biologists and land managers go about their daily jobs.”
One Pheasants Forever member happy to see the moratorium end is Dr. Frank Alvine, who’s scenic 1,000-acre Calico Canyon Ranch is near Winfred, South Dakota.  “For the past fifteen years, I have included a provision in my will that gives the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks the first-right-of-refusal on the purchase of this property,” says Alvine, 74. “I’d like it to go to the department to see it protected and shared with others.”
Alvine originally purchased the first portion of the Lake County property in the 1970s. Time, money and hard work have turned what was an “overgrazed piece of ground with severe erosion problems,” as he puts it, into the showplace of habitat that it is today. Mallards dot the different wetlands now brimming with water while whitetail deer browse on the lush cool-season grasses growing on the glaciated hillsides.  The occasional bobolink rises from the prairie – its black and white markings standing in stark contrast to the backdrop of green – while the sounds of crowing rooster pheasants are almost constantly in the air. Loftier goals yet remain for the ranch, Alvine says, and the ending of the moratorium brings them closer to reality.
“I watched as my favorite duck sloughs were drained when I was a young hunter, and now I’m watching as we drain even more ground, plow more grass, take out trees, burn cattails – it’s frustrating to watch South Dakota transform before your very eyes,” Alvine says, “We’re witnessing a change in the quality of life for sportsmen in South Dakota. There are certain parcels of ground that were never meant to be broken, never meant to be changed.  I’d like to see this property stay this way, and I’d like to see it end up with the Game, Fish and Parks.
-John Pollmann (Twitter: @JohnPollmann) contributed to this report.
Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.