South Dakota's governor has appointed a group to examine ways to develop more pheasant habitat in South Dakota, in response to a 64 percent decline in the ringneck population in 2013.


Gov. Dennis Daugaard held a "pheasant habitat summit'' last month, seeking ideas on how to stem a loss of habitat and a decline in the pheasant population.

He named 13 members to a group this week that will explore ideas and make recommendations. But already the makeup of that group is being criticized.

Eric Nerland of Minneapolis, whose family has a farm in eastern South Dakota and who hunts pheasants often in South Dakota, said the governor should have included at least one nonresident hunter from Minnesota, which sends about 20,000 ringneck hunters there each fall.

"They have a resource funded by non-resident license fees, and yet they don't have anyone from that group on the panel,'' said Nerland.

South Dakota routinely tries to entice Minnesota hunters west, yet it includes no typical nonresident hunters on the panel trying to solve the pheasant habitat dilemma, Nerland said.

The Daily Republic newspaper in Mitchell, S.D., had a similar complaint. In an editorial this week, the newspaper complained that there were too many bureaucrats and not enough "everyday folks'' from south-central South Dakota, the heart of pheasant country.

"This board needs a few bureaucrats and government insiders,'' the newspaper wrote. "Those are people who can get things done. A few elected officials are good, too, for the same reason.

"But this board needs more representation from everyday folks who hail from Ground Zero. It wasn’t a good idea to overload it with government insiders, and it was a terrible idea to exclude more representation from the pheasant belt.''

The thirteen pheasant habitat work group members are:

  • Pam Roberts, Pierre (Chair), retired Secretary of S.D. Department of Labor and Regulation.
  • Barry Dunn, Brookings, dean, College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences at South Dakota State University.
  • Tim Kessler, Aberdeen, Pheasants Forever board of directors, former Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) Commission chair.
  • Mary Duvall, Pierre, state representative.
  • Jason Frerichs, Wilmot, farmer, Senate Minority Leader.
  • John Cooper, Pierre, GFP commissioner, former GFP secretary.
  • Steve Halverson, Kennebec, farmer, owner of Halverson Hunts.
  • Jan Nicolay, Chester, former state representative.
  • Jeff Zimprich, Huron, USDA-NRCS state director.
  • Doug Deiter, Faulkton, farmer.
  • Jeff Vonk, Pierre, GFP secretary.
  • Lucas Lentsch, Pierre. S.D. Secretary of Agriculture.
  • Nathan Sanderson, Pierre, governor's policy advisor for agriculture and GFP.

The group is charged with developing recommendations to the governor that focus on practical solutions for maintaining and improving pheasant habitat. A final report is expected by late summer.

Members of the public may submit ideas for encouraging pheasant habitat development to, or by phone at 605.223.7660.

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