PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Wednesday that he’s calling lawmakers back to Pierre for a special legislative session to create a set of rules for outdoor enthusiasts who want to use lakes on private land in South Dakota for recreation.
The governor’s office said the special session would be held Monday. Lawmakers will debate draft legislation endorsed by a study committee last week that restores access to nearly 30 lakes for public recreation hampered after a recent state Supreme Court decision on publicly-owned bodies of water over privately-owned land.
The longstanding issue has vexed landowners and outdoor enthusiasts.
The bill specifies also that other lakes on private property are open for recreational use unless a landowner installs signs or buoys saying an area is closed. Property owners could still grant permission to use the water, but the measure would bar them from getting compensation in exchange for allowing fishing on a lake over their land.
The study was in response to a high court ruling that said the Legislature has the obligation to decide the extent the public can use so-called nonmeandered waters over private land for recreation. Since the decision, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks has limited access to infrastructure on more than 20 lakes in the state.
All waters in South Dakota are public property. Nonmeandered waters are bodies of water — usually smaller in size — that weren’t specially designated during government surveys in the late 1800s. Private property has since flooded, forming bodies of water and creating good fishing, but it’s come at the cost of productive land that agriculture producers have lost.
Under the bill, Game, Fish and Parks would be able to negotiate with landowners to open access to such lakes for recreation. If approved, the measure would take effect immediately and would sunset in July 2021.
Daugaard has said the bill balances landowners’ rights with the ability for sportsmen to use public waters recreationally.
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