- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Editors: Please note that The Associated Press welcomes editorial contributions from members for the weekly Editorial Roundup. Three editorials are selected every week. Contributions can be made by email at apsiouxfalls@ap.org.

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Capital Journal, Pierre, May 17, 2015

We can do better on non-resident waterfowl

The non-resident waterfowl licensing proposal now before the Game, Fish and Parks Department badly needs more work.

The latest fight over non-resident waterfowl licensing started in 2013 when the legislature began debating a bill aimed at increasing the number of non-resident waterfowl licenses available in South Dakota. It was tough fight that resulted in a hog-housed final product transferring authority over non-resident waterfowl licenses back to the Game, Fish and Parks Commission for the first time in 70 years.

The law restricted the commission from increasing the number of licenses available by more than 5 percent per year. It also called for the creation of a work group to study the issue and make recommendations to the commission.

That work group met a grand total of three times last winter. Three meetings to solve an issue that goes back 70 years? Why the rush?

The folks behind that bill have said they just wanted to get non-resident licenses out of the legislature’s wheelhouse. That is an admirable goal. The legislature probably has better things to do with its time. Like maybe finding a way to fund a state-based conservation effort with more than a token gesture, perhaps.

What those folks won’t say is that it’s a lot easier to get an increase in the number of licenses available through a 9-person board than it is to get it through the legislature. To be clear, the proposal that the Game, Fish and Parks Commission is considering right now doesn’t increase the total number of licenses currently available. Still, it will probably result in more non-resident duck hunters in the state.

That has resident hunter groups such as the South Dakota Wildlife Federation, very nervous over the possibility that landowners could seek to commercialize duck hunting in the state like pheasant hunting has been. They argue that means resident hunters, namely those folks who can’t afford to pay someone for the privilege of hunting their land, will find themselves unable to find a place to take their kids hunting.

The folks who want more non-resident hunters say they’ll be good for business. Those hunters will mean more jobs and more money in small towns that badly need it. As far as there being fewer places to hunt, they have an answer for that too. Don’t charge for kids.

Some key points were missing from the work group’s discussions, points that could have been discussed in a fourth, fifth or, god forbid, a sixth meeting.

Hunters enjoy a tremendous amount of support in South Dakota because hunting is big business in South Dakota. It is the driving force behind our number two industry - tourism.

The folks who want no further commercialization of duck hunting, need to recognize this. Bringing more hunters into the state isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It could very well be a good thing, if the state turns the extra dollars those hunters bring into more land to hunt on.

The folks who want more duck hunters in the state - we’re talking to you hotel owners, restaurant and bar owners as well as chambers of commerce - need to pony up too.

Hunters are already paying for a huge chunk of the state’s conservation efforts through licenses and excise taxes.

They have helped create the very hunting resources local businesses are capitalizing on. But how much money does the local chamber of commerce give to improve habitat or buy Game Production Areas. How much money do the hotel owners or retailer’s associations in this state give to habitat improvement projects?

The work group could have asked those questions.

Resident hunter groups would be far more likely to support increasing the number of out-of-state duck hunters in the state if it would mean more places for everyone to hunt. That, in turn, would mean more hunters eating at restaurants and staying in local hotels.

Something similar has already been done once. In the late 1990s landowners, hunters and business leaders in Central South Dakota worked together to create the Lower Oahe Waterfowl Access Area. Landowners traded public access for more non-resident licenses.

No one wins in this new proposal. Even Game, Fish and Parks Department staff will lose and all they really wanted was a simpler licensing system.

Scrap the current proposal and start over.

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The Daily Republic, Mitchell, May 18, 2015

Disconnect for a day

They’re addicting.

They take up too much of our time.

And, for most of us, they’re our lifeline to everything.

Smartphones have taken control of our society. Everywhere people with smartphones are constantly checking for updates on social media, email and messages.

Smartphones are used to give us directions, help us keep track of our banking transactions and tell us the score of the game.

But most importantly, they distract us from the world - the real world - that is around us.

That’s why when we heard of a new company-wide initiative by Cabela’s called “Disconnect Day,” we were intrigued and impressed.

In short, here’s how the initiative goes: You pledge to power down your smartphone, tablet and any other devices for an entire day and refrain from using them. You pick a date to disconnect and then actually go through with it.

Seems easy enough, but we can only imagine how tough this could be for many people.

We challenge anyone to read the actual pledge on Cabela’s website that explains the initiative, which includes the phrase, “I pledge to get my head out of my app, with liberty and just us, for all.”

As of Monday afternoon, the website - mydisconnectday.com - had 12,326 people nationwide who’ve pledged a day to disconnect. South Dakota had 94 pledges.

We want those numbers to increase dramatically. We want people to put down their smartphone and other devices, just for a day, and go spend some time with your family outside.

Leave work behind for a day.

Try using an actual folded-up map for directions, or teach your kids how to use them. Forget about checking the score on your phone, and instead go to the ballgame.

Get outside and go camping, fishing or hiking. But when you do it, leave your smartphone behind. Make some memories.

Cabela’s has a great initiative here. We all should disconnect for a day, and if goes well, do it again.

The one day without your smartphone may be one of the most memorable days you’ve had in a long time.

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Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, May 14, 2015

Mitchell did the right thing by resigning

It has been a turbulent journey for Rapid City Areas Schools Superintendent Tim Mitchell, who announced on May 12 he will resign in June 2016.

His announcement comes at a critical time for the school district and community. On June 2, voters will decide whether to support a five-year, $6 million opt-out the district says is needed to avoid cutting programs and laying off teachers and other personnel.

For those who oppose the opt-out, Mitchell has been the primary target. They claim he has mismanaged the district’s $84.3 million budget and consequently not earned the trust needed for voters to voluntarily raise their property taxes.

There is merit to these concerns. The district, as Mitchell has acknowledged, was slow to respond to the 10 percent statewide budget cuts implemented in 2011 by newly elected Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

For the Rapid City and its approximately 14,000 students, the reduction in state aid of $480.46 per pupil cost around $6.7 million, which now five years later the district is hoping to recoup.

The problem, however, is that the district’s credibility has suffered greatly since Mitchell was hired in 2010 after 13 years as the superintendent in Chamberlain, a small school district in central South Dakota.

In the past few months in particular, it has appeared that the school district is in a reactive mode with its last-minute extension of the early teacher retirement program, town hall meetings that added more confusion than clarity to the district’s financial challenges, and Mitchell’s own inability to win the hearts and minds of teachers and others in the community.

Mitchell’s announcement came after meeting with members of the school board, who support his decision as we do. In addition, we support the decision to remove Mitchell from managing the financial affairs of the district. Instead, Assistant Superintendent Dave Janak will deal with that daunting task.

While his tenure has been marked by challenges that in the end seemed to overwhelm an educator who took pride in being an innovator and forward-thinking leader, Mitchell does deserve credit for doing what is best for the district at this time.

By announcing his resignation now, it makes him less of an issue in the upcoming opt-out vote while giving the school board ample time to find a replacement for what might be the most difficult job in Rapid City. Indeed, it might even lead to a smooth landing for the embattled superintendent.

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