Predator and beaver damage poised to escalate in South Dakota | TSLN.com

Predator and beaver damage poised to escalate in South Dakota

David A. Nelson

Notice to cow/calf operators and sheep producers that the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks management in Pierre is purposefully and systematically de-prioritizing the Animal Damage Control (ADC) program in South Dakota. The SD GF&P ADC program has traditionally employed up to 19 State Trappers statewide to provide predator, beaver and nuisance damage management programs to protect livestock from predation, and crop and hay land flooding and arboreal losses to beaver. The GF&P Secretary and the Wildlife Division Director have both stated that spending money on predator damage management to protect livestock is a waste of money. The GF&P Secretary and the Director are using their positions and their authority to reorganize predator and beaver damage management programs in the state to reflect their biases which, in turn, are rendering these programs ineffective and unresponsive to the public.

A recent Wildlife Division reorganization plan has shifted away from about 17 full-time State Trapper positions to about 11 full-time equivalent State Trapper positions spread over 23 employees now titled Wildlife Damage Specialists (WDSs). Each WDS is restricted to between 10 percent and 60 percent of their time for providing predator and beaver damage services. The Wildlife Division Director will tell you that he saved the program with this new reorganization plan because the GF&P lost the Federal funding to keep the predator management program functioning. This is a misleading statement, because those Federal dollars have not been lost. Those Federal dollars are now being utilized by USDA/APHIS/Wildlife Service (WS) to provide the aerial predator management operations in the state. Therefore, the GF&P no longer has the responsibility or expense of funding the aerial predator management activities in the state.

The director will also tell you that the new WDM reorganization plan will enable the department to do a better job of responding to predator, beaver and nuisance animal complaints because they now have 23 WDS’s instead of 17 full-time State Trappers. The director’s argument could not be further from the truth, because mixed percentages of job assignments allows GF&P supervisors the flexibility to direct WDS activities to other duties deemed necessary by the department instead of predator and beaver complaints. In other words, the State Trappers, now titled Wildlife Damage Specialists, have been turned into “gopher” positions for the GF&P.

The only way that any professional predator and beaver damage management program can work is if the WDS positions are full-time so they have the autonomy to plan their daily and seasonal activities around the best interest and needs of the public that they serve. These field employees also need to be supervised statewide by a WDM supervisor that has a proven track record in providing and supervising WDM programs instead of being supervised by the GF&P regional offices.

The South Dakota predator damage management program is the only non-professional, fractured and dysfunctional program of its kind in the United States. I think South Dakota producers and other affected citizens of this great state deserve better.

WDM (including predator management) is an integral part of wildlife management; however, it is a very specialized profession unto its own. Many wildlife biologists have no background in the WDM profession and do not understand the impact of these programs or even agree with these programs. As a 31 year veteran and retired WDM supervisor and program manager, I would never consider it appropriate if I were the field supervisor for Conservation Officers, Fisheries Biologists or other wildlife disciplines. Why is it, then, that some wildlife managers think that is appropriate for them to supervise the specific discipline and profession as Wildlife Damage Management?

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I had further indications that the secretary and the director have conceived a predator and beaver damage management reorganization plan that is geared toward failure when I called some of the State Trappers to find out if they are being allowed to work their coyote complaints. I did not have to call many trappers before I had totaled 102 coyote complaints that these fellows had received within the last 30 days while only being allowed to work a total of 63 hours on these 102 complaints. WDS’s (State Trappers) are being told by their supervisors that livestock protection is no longer a department priority. They are being told not to tell their farmers, ranchers and other citizens that this new reorganization is not permitting them the time to respond to predator and beaver complaints. The State Trappers are also told that they had better not talk with the press.

I became aware of these atrocities when I traveled to Pierre on Feb. 18, 2010 to testify in favor of HB 1113 before the House Ag and Natural Resources Committee on behalf of livestock interests. The intent of HB 1113 was simple and straight forward. The intent was to take the words “and other animals” out of state law 40-36-9 so that the GF&P would not use these words as an authorization to misappropriate these funds away from ADC services. What I learned was how the GF&P Wildlife Division is providing blatantly false information to pit one agriculture producer against another. For example, opposition testimony was provided that if HB 1113 passed, the GF&P would not be able to provide the current level predator and beaver related services. Testimony was also provided that if it passed, the GF&P would not be able to enter into agreements with Federal agencies to further the ADC goals in the state. State laws 41-2-30 and 40-36-1 are just two examples of state statutes that provide not only the power but also the duty of the GF&P to enter into agreements with any agency to further the ADC goals in the state. When, in your eye, false statements like this are made, how can we as South Dakota citizens tell when the secretary and the director are telling the truth and when they are not unless we take the time to do our own digging. Providing false information to pit one producer against another and one South Dakota citizen against another demonstrates a management style that is manipulative and hints towards weak leadership. Even worse is GF&P management’s total disregard that is being shown for the public interest and public trust.

State law 40-36-11 authorizes the assessment of county funding based on livestock numbers and these monies are matched by the GF&P on a two-to-one basis for the purpose providing predator and beaver damage management programs for all citizens in the state as intended by legislature. This is titled the Animal Damage Control (ADC) Fund, and it currently generates $945,000 annually. When GF&P managers make organizational decisions aimed at destroying a Wildlife Damage Management (WDM) program, this appears to be an example of an Executive Branch of state government confusing their role with that of the Legislative Branch.

In addition, state law 41-2-34.2 authorizes the Wildlife Division to collect a five dollar surcharge on hunting licenses which generates about $2.5 million. Fifty percent of these monies are designated for acquiring public hunting access on private lands and 50 percent of these funds are directed to provide WDM services to reduce or alleviate agricultural losses caused by game animals such as deer, Canada goose, elk and turkey. In other words, approximately $1.25 million are available to the GF&P to provide game damage services to landowners. This is important because the GF&P is blurring the lines between the services provided from the ADC fund and the Game/WDM fund. GF&P management’s biases against predator management is resulting in decisions that create funding and man-power imbalances between these two programs.

The USDA/APHIS/ National Wildlife Research Center in Ft. Collins, CO has conducted a large volume of research addressing benefit:cost ratios of various WDM programs. “ECONOMICS OF PREDATION MANAGEMENT IN RELATION TO AGRICULTURE, WILDLIFE, AND HUMAN HEALTH SAFETY” authored by Michael J. Bodenchuck, J. Russell Mason and William C. Pitt is one such study that revealed, when properly applied, predator damage management shows benefit:cost ratios of between 3:1 to 27:1 for agriculture and 2:1 to 22:1 for wildlife protection.

In the April 16, 2009 issue of SDSU’s “Economics Commentator,” Dr. Gary Taylor, Associate Professor, states that: “The output multiplier for production agriculture industries in South Dakota is 2.374 (the highest output multiplier for any industry in the state). This means every dollar of revenue generated in agriculture industries generates an additional $1.374 worth of economic activity in the state. This multiplier does not even consider the number of times a dollar is turned over in the local economy, but rather is a real increase in business activity.

Another way to appreciate livestock depredation from a producers point of view, is that if a producer is operating on a five percent profit margin, and he loses only one calf to coyotes then he would need to sell 20 calves to make up for the loss revenue for that one calf.

Because the ADC/WDM reorganization plan is doomed to fail, please do not blame the State Trapper when you see an increase in livestock predation or more damage caused by beaver. The WDM State Trappers are being directed to perform other department duties that the secretary and the director think are more important. It is eating these guys up that their predator complaints are piling up and they are not being allowed to address them in a timely manner because they know that they have the tools and the expertise to keep livestock losses to a minimum.

If GF&P management’s distortion of the truth and mismanagement of ADC programs is of importance to you, please contact the association that best represents your interests. Ask your association leaders how they feel about these issues. If they share your concerns, ask them to band together with other affected producer organizations and take these concerns to the Governor’s Office instead of the GF&P because the GF&P Pierre office will continue to distort the truth to serve the GF&P’s best interests instead of the best interests of the citizens of SD. Request the Governor’s Office for another GF&P ADC program reorganization that works and is in line with state law.

Perhaps, when each of us chooses our candidate for governor, we should ask those candidates what they view their role as governor would be in providing direction and guidance to their Secretary of Game, Fish and Parks and ensuring that the secretary is truthful and abides by the state statutes that apply to the GF&P.

If complacency on our part takes precedence over action, then predator and beaver damage will increase in SD beyond what is tolerable to most producers. It is better to act now than to wait until these losses escalate. Action and change is in your hands.

Notice to cow/calf operators and sheep producers that the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks management in Pierre is purposefully and systematically de-prioritizing the Animal Damage Control (ADC) program in South Dakota. The SD GF&P ADC program has traditionally employed up to 19 State Trappers statewide to provide predator, beaver and nuisance damage management programs to protect livestock from predation, and crop and hay land flooding and arboreal losses to beaver. The GF&P Secretary and the Wildlife Division Director have both stated that spending money on predator damage management to protect livestock is a waste of money. The GF&P Secretary and the Director are using their positions and their authority to reorganize predator and beaver damage management programs in the state to reflect their biases which, in turn, are rendering these programs ineffective and unresponsive to the public.

A recent Wildlife Division reorganization plan has shifted away from about 17 full-time State Trapper positions to about 11 full-time equivalent State Trapper positions spread over 23 employees now titled Wildlife Damage Specialists (WDSs). Each WDS is restricted to between 10 percent and 60 percent of their time for providing predator and beaver damage services. The Wildlife Division Director will tell you that he saved the program with this new reorganization plan because the GF&P lost the Federal funding to keep the predator management program functioning. This is a misleading statement, because those Federal dollars have not been lost. Those Federal dollars are now being utilized by USDA/APHIS/Wildlife Service (WS) to provide the aerial predator management operations in the state. Therefore, the GF&P no longer has the responsibility or expense of funding the aerial predator management activities in the state.

The director will also tell you that the new WDM reorganization plan will enable the department to do a better job of responding to predator, beaver and nuisance animal complaints because they now have 23 WDS’s instead of 17 full-time State Trappers. The director’s argument could not be further from the truth, because mixed percentages of job assignments allows GF&P supervisors the flexibility to direct WDS activities to other duties deemed necessary by the department instead of predator and beaver complaints. In other words, the State Trappers, now titled Wildlife Damage Specialists, have been turned into “gopher” positions for the GF&P.

The only way that any professional predator and beaver damage management program can work is if the WDS positions are full-time so they have the autonomy to plan their daily and seasonal activities around the best interest and needs of the public that they serve. These field employees also need to be supervised statewide by a WDM supervisor that has a proven track record in providing and supervising WDM programs instead of being supervised by the GF&P regional offices.

The South Dakota predator damage management program is the only non-professional, fractured and dysfunctional program of its kind in the United States. I think South Dakota producers and other affected citizens of this great state deserve better.

WDM (including predator management) is an integral part of wildlife management; however, it is a very specialized profession unto its own. Many wildlife biologists have no background in the WDM profession and do not understand the impact of these programs or even agree with these programs. As a 31 year veteran and retired WDM supervisor and program manager, I would never consider it appropriate if I were the field supervisor for Conservation Officers, Fisheries Biologists or other wildlife disciplines. Why is it, then, that some wildlife managers think that is appropriate for them to supervise the specific discipline and profession as Wildlife Damage Management?

I had further indications that the secretary and the director have conceived a predator and beaver damage management reorganization plan that is geared toward failure when I called some of the State Trappers to find out if they are being allowed to work their coyote complaints. I did not have to call many trappers before I had totaled 102 coyote complaints that these fellows had received within the last 30 days while only being allowed to work a total of 63 hours on these 102 complaints. WDS’s (State Trappers) are being told by their supervisors that livestock protection is no longer a department priority. They are being told not to tell their farmers, ranchers and other citizens that this new reorganization is not permitting them the time to respond to predator and beaver complaints. The State Trappers are also told that they had better not talk with the press.

I became aware of these atrocities when I traveled to Pierre on Feb. 18, 2010 to testify in favor of HB 1113 before the House Ag and Natural Resources Committee on behalf of livestock interests. The intent of HB 1113 was simple and straight forward. The intent was to take the words “and other animals” out of state law 40-36-9 so that the GF&P would not use these words as an authorization to misappropriate these funds away from ADC services. What I learned was how the GF&P Wildlife Division is providing blatantly false information to pit one agriculture producer against another. For example, opposition testimony was provided that if HB 1113 passed, the GF&P would not be able to provide the current level predator and beaver related services. Testimony was also provided that if it passed, the GF&P would not be able to enter into agreements with Federal agencies to further the ADC goals in the state. State laws 41-2-30 and 40-36-1 are just two examples of state statutes that provide not only the power but also the duty of the GF&P to enter into agreements with any agency to further the ADC goals in the state. When, in your eye, false statements like this are made, how can we as South Dakota citizens tell when the secretary and the director are telling the truth and when they are not unless we take the time to do our own digging. Providing false information to pit one producer against another and one South Dakota citizen against another demonstrates a management style that is manipulative and hints towards weak leadership. Even worse is GF&P management’s total disregard that is being shown for the public interest and public trust.

State law 40-36-11 authorizes the assessment of county funding based on livestock numbers and these monies are matched by the GF&P on a two-to-one basis for the purpose providing predator and beaver damage management programs for all citizens in the state as intended by legislature. This is titled the Animal Damage Control (ADC) Fund, and it currently generates $945,000 annually. When GF&P managers make organizational decisions aimed at destroying a Wildlife Damage Management (WDM) program, this appears to be an example of an Executive Branch of state government confusing their role with that of the Legislative Branch.

In addition, state law 41-2-34.2 authorizes the Wildlife Division to collect a five dollar surcharge on hunting licenses which generates about $2.5 million. Fifty percent of these monies are designated for acquiring public hunting access on private lands and 50 percent of these funds are directed to provide WDM services to reduce or alleviate agricultural losses caused by game animals such as deer, Canada goose, elk and turkey. In other words, approximately $1.25 million are available to the GF&P to provide game damage services to landowners. This is important because the GF&P is blurring the lines between the services provided from the ADC fund and the Game/WDM fund. GF&P management’s biases against predator management is resulting in decisions that create funding and man-power imbalances between these two programs.

The USDA/APHIS/ National Wildlife Research Center in Ft. Collins, CO has conducted a large volume of research addressing benefit:cost ratios of various WDM programs. “ECONOMICS OF PREDATION MANAGEMENT IN RELATION TO AGRICULTURE, WILDLIFE, AND HUMAN HEALTH SAFETY” authored by Michael J. Bodenchuck, J. Russell Mason and William C. Pitt is one such study that revealed, when properly applied, predator damage management shows benefit:cost ratios of between 3:1 to 27:1 for agriculture and 2:1 to 22:1 for wildlife protection.

In the April 16, 2009 issue of SDSU’s “Economics Commentator,” Dr. Gary Taylor, Associate Professor, states that: “The output multiplier for production agriculture industries in South Dakota is 2.374 (the highest output multiplier for any industry in the state). This means every dollar of revenue generated in agriculture industries generates an additional $1.374 worth of economic activity in the state. This multiplier does not even consider the number of times a dollar is turned over in the local economy, but rather is a real increase in business activity.

Another way to appreciate livestock depredation from a producers point of view, is that if a producer is operating on a five percent profit margin, and he loses only one calf to coyotes then he would need to sell 20 calves to make up for the loss revenue for that one calf.

Because the ADC/WDM reorganization plan is doomed to fail, please do not blame the State Trapper when you see an increase in livestock predation or more damage caused by beaver. The WDM State Trappers are being directed to perform other department duties that the secretary and the director think are more important. It is eating these guys up that their predator complaints are piling up and they are not being allowed to address them in a timely manner because they know that they have the tools and the expertise to keep livestock losses to a minimum.

If GF&P management’s distortion of the truth and mismanagement of ADC programs is of importance to you, please contact the association that best represents your interests. Ask your association leaders how they feel about these issues. If they share your concerns, ask them to band together with other affected producer organizations and take these concerns to the Governor’s Office instead of the GF&P because the GF&P Pierre office will continue to distort the truth to serve the GF&P’s best interests instead of the best interests of the citizens of SD. Request the Governor’s Office for another GF&P ADC program reorganization that works and is in line with state law.

Perhaps, when each of us chooses our candidate for governor, we should ask those candidates what they view their role as governor would be in providing direction and guidance to their Secretary of Game, Fish and Parks and ensuring that the secretary is truthful and abides by the state statutes that apply to the GF&P.

If complacency on our part takes precedence over action, then predator and beaver damage will increase in SD beyond what is tolerable to most producers. It is better to act now than to wait until these losses escalate. Action and change is in your hands.

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