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OUR VIEW: Get informed on private-public water

Outdoor enthusiasts across South Dakota should be aware of today's Game, Fish & Parks Department meeting in Pierre.

Attend it. Listen online. Read about it later in a newspaper.

It's an important meeting, as the GF&P Commission will be considering a significant proposal to partially open recreational use on Reetz Lake in northeastern South Dakota near Webster.

The lake is a non-meandered body of water, meaning there is privately owned land that's been flooded over with water. It's currently closed to recreational use, such as fishing and hunting, following 2017 legislation that gave landowners the right to restrict access from the public. It is open by landowner permission.

In short, a new agreement is in place to allow public use of the lake from May to September with heavy fishing restrictions, but during that time no permission is needed. The boat access would be open and anyone could use the lake.

The other seven months, Reetz would be closed to the public but open by landowner permission. And, all lake-specific harvest restrictions would be off and statewide regulations would apply.

It's somewhat complex and, at first, perhaps seems unfair. There will undoubtedly be significant public discussion, but ultimately the GF&P Commission will decide whether the agreement is worthwhile. That's because for the five months the lake is open to public use, the landowner will be receiving $1,600 monthly from the state to allow access.

We've read through dozens of public comments online that were delivered to the GF&P Commission, some in favor of the agreement and some against. Should landowners get to weigh in on regulations and set seasons? These are the questions splitting the public.

But the key is for people to be educated before coming to a decision. Too often, especially with the non-meandered waters legislation and recent changes, uninformed members of the public are spouting off and confusing others. Several letters submitted to the commission have significantly inaccurate information.

And that continues to drive a wedge further between outdoor enthusiasts and landowners.

Of course it's good to be passionate on hot topics, and we always welcome public input and concern on any issue. But it's more important to be informed.

For landowners, the state and outdoor enthusiasts to come together to provide recreational opportunities for the public, we need more informed individuals speaking up.

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