PIERRE, S.D. — Out-of-state residents continued to flock increasingly to South Dakota for hunting and fishing, say state officials. But resident licenses took a dip from 2020.
In announcing a small decline in resident small-game and fishing licenses on Tuesday to the Game, Fish and Parks Commission, Division of Wildlife director Tom Kirschenmann said the state continues to see "very strong" numbers over the past five years.
"I wish I could give you a better explanation as to why we saw that dip," said Kirshenmann. "But we continue to work with those anglers ... who did not return."
Overall, however, the state saw 72,000 non-resident small game licenses in 2021 -- a bump from 64,000 the year prior. Kirshenmann said non-resident fishing license sales held a similar trend.
"It's a wonderful influx of non-residents," said Kirshenmann.
GFP funds nearly half of the Wildlife Division's programming on the backs of hunting licenses. Fishing license sales account for roughly 13% of the division's budget, said Kirshenmann.
In other news on Tuesday, GFP Secretary Kevin Robling discussed a handful of bills the department will bring to the legislative session, including what he called the most significant expansion to camping at Custer State Park in four decades.
"Right now, supply is not meeting demand," said Robling.
The $9.89 million proposal would see 176 campsites -- boosting the park's campsites by 30% -- added in Barnes Canyon, north of the park's airstrip.
Other bills the department is endorsing this year include $2.5 million to buy a new shooting range in Meade County north of Rapid City, $5.6 million to repair flood-damaged dams on Lake Alvin and Newell Lake, which support recreation in state parks, and the repeal of laws surrounding the Black Hills Playhouse, which resides in Custer State Park. Robling said the playhouse's board is "very supportive" of this request.