The SDGF&P’s public attitude survey of both South Dakota citizens and Black Hills residents found that a majority recommended no change to the Black Hill’s cougar population. Public comments from across the US ran 8:1 against SDGF&P’s 2010-2015 mountain lion management plan to reduce cougar numbers in the Black Hills National Forest, a federal wildlife population funded by all US taxpayers. There was no peer review of SDGF&P’s study on which the plan was based. Significant errors in the data estimating the Black Hill’s cougar population were found by independent cougar biologists reviewing the SDGF&P study – funded in part by federal research grants – that informed the 2010-2015 management plan. Over-riding even their own biologists recommendations, the SDGF&P commissioners last year raised the quota again, especially on breeding females.
Comments to the plan included predictions that conflicts in residential areas would increase among orphaned kittens and juveniles with the rising take of breeding females; residential incidents that resulted last month in the killing of four young cats.
Acting against state citizen and Black Hill’s resident recommendations; acting against overwhelming national comment to the management of a federal wildlife resource; failing to seek peer-review for a study funded by federal research grants of a federal wildlife population; significant errors reported by independent biologists reviewing the study; failure to heed state biologist recommendations, all ignored solely in response to local hunter lobbying and anecdotal evidence of deer and elk impacts by mountain lions. All in response to predator scapegoating by a minority special interest.
With such violations of public trust doctrine, it’s little wonder that the governor has called for an independent review. Whether it’s enough to stop the decimation of the Black Hills National Forest mountain lion population remains to be seen.
Rapid City Journal
EDITORIAL: Review should restore trust
July 19, 2012
THE ISSUE: Gov. Daugaard orders independent study of GF&P’s Wildlife Division.
OUR VIEW: It’s a shame that public distrust of mountain lion management has resulted in an outside review.
There is probably no other state agency with more interaction with the public than the Game, Fish and Parks Department. Nor is there another department that takes more heat from the public than the GF&P.
South Dakota is blessed with an abundance of wildlife, and how that resource is managed is subject to intense public scrutiny and criticism. And there is no more controversial subject than the GF&P’s handling of mountain lions in South Dakota.