Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

10/28/2014 9:15 AM
By Associated Press

Editors: Please note that The Associated Press welcomes editorial contributions from members for the weekly Editorial Roundup. Three editorials are selected every week. Contributions can be made by email at apsiouxfalls@ap.org.

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Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan, Yankton, Oct. 27, 2014

Same-sex marriage on?a fast track?

South Dakotans and Nebraskans who are vehemently opposed to the legalization and/or recognition of same-sex marriages might want to brace themselves for what could be coming.

What's coming, it appears, might be the end of such bans and the legal granting of such rights, which have been resisted for years and were even part of a grassroots movement to have that resistance incorporated into the U.S. Constitution.

This is worth noting today after what has been a dramatic month of progress in the effort to have same-sex marriages legalized state by state.

On Saturday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that marital rights and benefits for same-sex couples will be federally recognized in six more states — Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming. That brings the total number of states with federally recognized same-sex marriage to 32.

About a month ago, it was just 19, according to the MSNBC website.

An infographic shows small groupings of states in the Upper Plains and the South where the marriage ban is currently being challenged in court. Both Dakotas and Nebraska fall into this category. There are also five states — Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Florida and Michigan — where the ban has been overturned in court and is on hold. It may soon be allowed in three more states, including Montana, Kansas and South Carolina. The rest allow such marriages.

In short, the mentality that once made same-sex marriage a handy political issue to stimulate "values voters" now finds itself in the minority in this country, and its foothold on legitimacy is shrinking virtually week by week.

South Dakota's ban was addressed in federal court earlier this month in Sioux Falls. U.S. District Court Judge Karen Schreier was asked by the state to dismiss the challenge to the ban. There likely won't be a quick ruling on this matter, so South Dakota may stay in this camp for a while.

Much of the debate on the laws in South Dakota and Nebraska, it appears, centers on the changing legal landscape since both states added language to their constitutions back in 2006 limiting the rights and benefits of marriage to heterosexual couples. And there can be no question about that: The landscape has changed dramatically in the years since those measures were passed by voters.

Will that make a change in their legal validity now?

America has changed a lot in that time, and so have Americans. We have always believed that this change had to come from the grassroots, not legislated by lawmakers or scrapped by judges. But for the first time ever, a majority of Americans now favor the legalization of sex-sex marriage. What we are seeing in the courts matches those poll numbers.

Does that guarantee that the same-sex marriage bans on the books in South Dakota and Nebraska are doomed? Not necessarily — but the national tidal wave does not seem to bode well for such laws here.

Could the tide even be reversed? Another way to ask that is: Will this fundamental legal right be snatched away from and forbidden to some people while reserved for others?

The best guess is that change is coming — sooner than many people may have ever dreamed or feared, depending on your point of view.

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Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Oct. 18, 2014

City wise to fund waterway protection

There's that old saying about every long journey beginning with a single step.

Well, if a clean and inviting Big Sioux River is the long journey, then the city of Sioux Falls has taken a very important single step.

The city will spend more than $1 million to make payments to farmers who agree to keep their cattle out of the river during spring and summer months.

It's no secret that the Big Sioux River, which meanders across thousands of acres of farmland in its journey across eastern South Dakota, is polluted. That is understandable, considering the nature of the land use along much of the waterway — farming and livestock feeding.

The waters that circle Sioux Falls and upon which the city is trying to forge a new urban identity are polluted with E. coli and fecal coliform and other microscopic bacteria. The water is unsafe for swimming.

The journey toward a clean Big Sioux River has been underway for years with mixed results. Cleanup efforts began in earnest in 1999 after the Environmental Protection Agency placed the Big Sioux on a list of impaired water bodies.

The state Department of Environment and National Resources studied potential pollution sources and cited such things as urban development and storm water runoff, naturally erodible soil and seasonal snowmelt. But the feedlots and agricultural operations were deemed a significant detriment to the waterway.

Federal grants were offered as incentives to farmers in the Big Sioux watershed to modernize their waste management systems, fence off pastures along the water and explore other anti-pollution options. Officials believe the measures have made some progress.

But livestock operators have not signed up in large numbers, and that's where the city's new initiative can be a big help.

We believe this program — the city, acting as a funding source for local conservation districts — can be an effective approach to beginning to solve this perennial problem.

The program offers payments to farmers who agree to not use pastures along the Big Sioux watershed, specifically Skunk Creek, from April through September. The program allows farmers to use the hay that grows on the land in that time and pays 75 percent of the cost for fencing the pasture area and installing rural water for the cattle. The farm land closest to the city is the first priority.

So far, results of these efforts are encouraging. Sites next to land that already is enrolled in this pollution reduction program are showing improvement in water quality standards.

Efforts such as this, to help make the Big Sioux River a healthier recreational option in the summer, can become a solid foundation for continuing this important work year around.

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Capital Journal, Pierre, Oct. 19, 2014

John Public needs a place to hunt for himself, his boy and his dog

If you pounded the fields after pheasants over the weekend, chances are good that you may have set foot on public land, or at the very least, bagged a few birds that had. Public hunting areas are one of the great blessings of central South Dakota. Without a doubt, access to state and federal lands is one of the reasons Pheasants Forever in 2013 named Pierre the best place in the country for upland game bird hunting.

That is why acquiring more land for public access to hunting and other recreational opportunities should be a key part of what we do as we move forward on Gov. Dennis Daugaard's wise move in late 2013 to begin looking at ways to keep a healthy population of pheasants on the land.

But if you're from South Dakota, you know how political this issue can be.

Even though the money to buy lands for hunting often comes from fees charged to hunters, sometimes supplemented by agencies such as Pheasants Forever, some people don't like to see the government in the business of shopping for land.

That is why South Dakota and some other states now and then end up with something like a moratorium on land acquisitions by wildlife agencies.

But as Pheasants Forever pointed out on its website in 2013, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks as of a year ago owned less than 0.6 percent of the land in South Dakota.

And frankly, to view land acquisitions by a wildlife agency as something the government does is wrong-headed; the government agency is only the middleman. It's we, the people, who want to buy more land; and that is because John Q. Public needs a place to hunt for himself, his boy and his dog - and maybe his cousin from the Twin Cities.

Yes, there are lease programs we can pursue, and of course there are programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program that can have far greater impact on habitat by influencing what private landowners do. But there is something to be said for buying land for the public. It guarantees hunting access to the people of South Dakota, and their guests, forever.

Far from shying away from buying more lands for public access to wildlife, we ought to ramp up what we do through agencies such as South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, making strategic purchases in areas that may not have as much as we have around Pierre. Fortunately, some of the lands that are less desirable for agriculture often make great habitat.

South Dakota is the last best place for hunting upland game birds; no other state has what we have. We must continue to be different than other places, and buying more land for public hunting ought to be one of the tools in our kit as we set about fixing the habitat problem in South Dakota.


Has the Food and Drug Administration done enough to revise its produce safety rule?

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10/30/2014 | Last Updated: 5:45 AM