Hunting won’t be expanded on South Dakota wildlife refuge

Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern South Dakota is widely valued as a sanctuary for migratory birds. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

ABERDEEN, S.D. — The U.S. Department of Interior is not moving forward with a proposal to expand waterfowl hunting at Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern South Dakota.

The federal agency cited overwhelming public opposition for its decision, saying the refuge northeast of Aberdeen is widely valued as a sanctuary for migratory birds and other wildlife.

Hunting is allowed on certain areas of the refuge as a management tool with specific rules and regulations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened a 60-day comment period in November for public input on the proposed expansion. The wildlife agency sought feedback on how to allow hunting while meeting the refuge’s expectations to preserve the area for migratory birds to rest and breed.

Retired South Dakota conservation officer Bill Antonides expressed opposition to the proposal at a meeting in the fall. He told the Aberdeen American News that expanding hunting could have disrupted wildlife patterns on the lake and pushed birds out of the refuge earlier than normal.

“(The decision is) good for sportsmen, for outdoorsmen, for the bird lovers and, most importantly, for the refuge,” Antonides said.

Sand Lake was established in 1935 with an executive order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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