GAVINS POINT PROJECT, LEWIS AND CLARK LAKE,
DUCK BLIND PROGRAM DECISION
Following a substantial public involvement process that involved a more than 30 day comment period, an open public meeting, and several meetings between staff from the Corps of Engineers, South Dakota Game Fish and Parks, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the Gavins Point Project Office has determined that we will no longer issue permits for permanent waterfowl blinds on Lewis and Clark Lake. Multiple issues concerning the fairness of hunting opportunities and requiring the free and full use of the project’s resources to manage such a program were called into question. The argument to continue to allow private, exclusive-use of public lands through this program could no longer be defended.
Going forward, waterfowl hunting will be on a first come, first serve basis in-line with other forms of hunting allowed on public lands. In accordance with Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) waterfowl blinds and other personal property may not be left unattended. Unattended property may be considered abandoned and may be confiscated. This means that no blinds, boats, boat blinds, decoys, or other property, are to be left unattended and MUST be removed after each days use. This also includes stakes, jugs, etc. placed to hold spots either prior to or during the season. Offenders may also be cited, if warranted.
This program review was initiated in response to an increase in complaints over the past several years from hunters, other users of Lewis and Clark Lake, and the three agencies that jointly manage the area. Written comments were solicited and a public meeting was held along with several agency meetings. An assessment of both written and in person comments was completed to determine how to allow more equitable opportunity and better implement the Permitted Blind Program. The Corps specifically asked the public for concerns and suggestions on how to improve the program and public use of the resource in regards to waterfowl hunting. There were over seventy responses from the public. (A summary list of comments and suggestions received is posted on our website.)
The several meetings that were conducted among the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission and South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks were held in an attempt to find a fair and balanced solution for all public users. In response to suggestions, the agencies also considered implementing additional rules and regulations and changing the blind drawing and placement process. However, it became clear that additional regulations would not solve the issues and conflicts since we have been unable to gain compliance of the existing rules and regulations.
The group also recognized that there has been a marked increase in the number of hunters in this area creating increased hunting pressure and competition for hunting spots. It became more and more apparent that this program was in conflict with the requirements and goals of the Corps to manage public land and provide for quality public outdoor recreation experiences on a consistent and fair basis. The group ultimately believed, based on the majority of public comments and from the input received from local agency land managers, that this program did not provide for equal opportunities for the majority of the public wishing to utilize the resource.
It has always been, and will continue to be, the goal of the Gavins Point Project to facilitate the proper stewardship and management of public resources. This decision is believed to be the best way to move forward in order to benefit the vast majority of waterfowl hunters at Lewis and Clark Lake. Allowing first come, first serve hunting gives all hunters equal access to the project’s resources.
Thomas J. Curran
Operations Project Manager
Gavins Point Project Office