Public opinion wanted on possible Sand Lake Refuge expansion for waterfowl hunting

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COLUMBIA, S.D. Opening up a portion of Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge to waterfowl hunting is in talks as part of a nationwide effort to increase hunter participation. The Refuge staff are looking for the public opinion and KSFY's Kayleigh Schmidt tells us what staff has heard so far.

Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge staff were asked if they'd be able to expand waterfowl hunting opportunities.

"The first step to that is to determine whether or not waterfowl hunting would be compatible on Sand Lake. That question depends largely on what type of hunting you're talking about and where it would take place," Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge Manager Dave Azure said.

Plenty of compatibility questions are brought to the public to gauge their opinion on whether or not this land should be opened up.

"For example - would all day hunting be allowed or would something less than all day hunting be allowable, half-day hunting," Azure said. "Are we thinking about the north end of the refuge, east end, west end, and then manner - would boats be allowed on the lake, would they not be allowed, would motors be allowed."

The staff has received several opinions for and against the idea. Many of the concerns deal with the Sand Lake Refuge serving as a migratory stopover for ducks and geese.

Some South Dakota residents just hope the whole process is done right.

"My fear is that there'll be sort of like mission creep. We'll have a line where hunters can go and it'll be far enough back that it won't scare off the birds and for whatever reason, that line will keep encroaching closer and closer to the water, we'll lose our birds and we'll lose our hunting in the area," Retired Wildlife Conservation Officer Bill Antonides said.

The Refuge would only be able to open 40% of the land at maximum to waterfowl hunting according to policy.

"There's a good possibility there are places that could be open to waterfowl hunting there without disturbing the migration," Antonides said. "If they can do that, I'm all for it. If they can't then I'm totally against it."

If you're interested in submitting your comments about opening up the Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge for waterfowl hunting, you can email Dave Azure at or send postal mail to:

Attn: Dave Azure, Wildlife Refuge Manager
Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
39650 Sand Lake Drive
Columbia, SD 57433

Feedback will be taken until December 18.