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Custer State Park airport to close after GFP commission vote

Brent Duerre

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks commissioners voted to deny a hound petition and allowed the Custer State Airport license to lapse in their latest meeting.

Allowing nonresidents to use hounds in pursuit of racoons was the only petition on the docket. Commissioners voted it down. They said their denial will help the petitioner.

The petition requested to allow nonresidents to hunt racoon with hounds with a limit of one racoon harvested per day per hunter.

Commissioners say the language in the petition could cause issues for GFP officers who would have trouble determining if a resident or nonresident harvested the racoon.

They expressed interest in allowing nonresident hound hunting of racoons but said the current petition was too limiting.

Commissioners also voted to allow Custer State Park’s airport license to lapse, effectively closing the airport. This is based on a request from the Parks and Recreation director.

One of the items discussed was the commission’s meeting calendar for 2024. GFP Deputy Secretary Scott Simpson said next year there could be less traveling for commissioners.

“A couple reasons for that. One, as you know, we have been online, we have been taking online testimony, it allows anyone in the state to be able to testify from wherever their at. It doesn’t necessarily require the commission to move around and take input from other geographic locations," said Simpson. "People can do that every week. And we think that has been a great step for this commission, and I think the quality and the quantity of public input has improved with that.”

Vice-Chair Travis Bies said his concern is a breakdown of relationships.

“I understand the reasons you brought up, Scott, but I really enjoy when we go out and meet the staff in the different areas and see what they're doing and be able to talk to them and get to know them," Bies said. "I mean, that’ll be gone."

A majority of commissioners voiced support for Bies’ statement. They ended up pushing their scheduling decision to November.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.