In her recent 2024 State of the State Address, Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota took center stage to share the state’s commitment to preserving outdoor freedoms, particularly sharing the significance of hunting.

The State’s Dedication

Governor Noem highlighted the state’s dedication to improving outdoor opportunities, making it clear that South Dakota is a haven for hunting enthusiasts.

The Governor proudly announced a groundbreaking endeavor by the Department of Game, Fish, and Parks – the South Dakota Shooting Sports Complex.

Envisioned as the premier firearms range in the Midwest, this complex aims to host world-class events that will not only celebrate the state’s hunting culture but also positively impact its economy. However, Governor Noem did not shy away from revealing the hurdles the project faces, pointing to changes in rules by the Biden Administration after initial approval.

The Outdoor Programs

“While we continue to build this range, we’re going to host world-class events here in South Dakota that will impact our economy right here in our state long term,” Governor Noem said/

Governor Noem then delved into South Dakota’s exceptional track record in hunting, proudly stating that the state consistently ranks first or second for the most hunting licenses sold per capita.

A key initiative, the Second Century Program, seeks to expand opportunities for animal habitats across the state. Despite 80% of the land being privately owned, South Dakota broke records in 2023 for the most private land enrolled in public hunting access.

Respect for Private Property Rights

The Governor attributed this success to a fundamental principle – respect for private property rights. Governor Noem shared the state’s unique approach, where hunters sought permission before venturing onto privately owned land. The result is a harmonious coexistence between private landowners and the hunting community.

A significant part of Governor Noem’s outdoor strategy involved the Next Predator Program, designed to instill respect for the outdoors and wildlife in the younger generation.

The Children’s Program

The program encourages participants to submit tales of predators, contributing to the preservation of the pheasant and wildlife population. Governor Noem proudly shared that 46% of program participants last year were under the age of 18.

To illustrate the impact of such programs, Governor Noem shared a heartwarming story about the Gingrich family.

Success Story

The family, consisting of three children – Morgan, Samantha, and William – engaged in the Hunting 101 program. Under the guidance of volunteer mentors from Game, Fish, and Parks, the family learned essential skills, from navigating licensing processes to firearm safety.

The Governor shared the family’s journey, including successful harvests, lessons learned, and the joy of celebrating hitting a 200-yard steel target.

We Respect the Freedom to Enjoy the Outdoors

She shared that the Gingrich family’s story represents a microcosm of the countless families in South Dakota who are learning, bonding, and creating lasting memories through outdoor activities.

As Governor Noem concluded her address, she said, “I love these kinds of stories. They are possible because in South Dakota we respect the freedom to enjoy the outdoors.”

So what do you think? How can other states learn from South Dakota’s approach to balancing private property rights, and the preservation of hunting traditions in the face of changing federal policies?