UFWS Agent Speaks out on GFP Case

Kevin Woster has a big story today in the Rapid City Journal on the very politically charged case of the State of South Dakota versus US Fish and Wildlife service. For the first time, the person at the center of this swirling hurricane, Bob Prieksat, offers his opinion on it all:
Federal game warden Bob Prieksat said Thursday that the public attack against him by Gov. Mike Rounds and his chief of staff is at least partly rooted in a 3-1/2-year-old investigation of former state Game, Fish & Parks Secretary John Cooper in a Black Hills elk-hunting case.

“Yeah, it was directly related,” Prieksat said Thursday, during a rare interview on the issue.

But Chief of Staff Rob Skjonsberg denied that Cooper was behind the push to oust Prieksat from his job as three-state law-enforcement supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Pierre.

“If Coop had wanted to push it three years ago, I very likely would have supported it then,” Skjonsberg said Thursday. “Coop never brought that threat to me, then or now.”


Federal prosecutors decided not to bring charges in the case involving Cooper and Washington, D.C., area resident Eric Washburn for their elk hunt near Pringle in October of 2003. Washburn, who worked as an aide to former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle, was using resident hunting privileges granted — on questionable legal grounds — by former Gov. Bill Janklow several years earlier. After the decree came to light, Attorney General Larry Long determined that it was not valid, and Rounds officially rescinded it.
Read it all here. Of course, this comes on the heels of the local Pierre outfitter being found guilty of the Prieksat issued ticket that he had vowed to contest.
Pierre guide and outfitter Caleb Gilkerson has been found guilty of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in a case involving embattled federal game warden Bob Prieksat of Pierre.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Moreno found Gilkerson guilty beyond a reasonable doubt after a trial Tuesday in Pierre, according to a release from the U.S. attorney’s office. After an investigation last December led by Prieksat, Gilkerson was charged with possessing 28 Canada geese that were not tagged at his game-cleaning business in Pierre.
Read that here, also in the Rapid City Journal.

I suspect the coming months are going to see a huge deterioration in the relationship between the federal fish and wildlife service, and South Dakota State Government. But I don't think this has come to a head yet. Not by a long shot.

UPDATE: KCCR News is also covering the story:
Gilkerson says he is not sure if he and his attorney, Wade Reimers, will appeal the decision. Gilkerson says he plans to keep processing migratory birds in his business as he has done for 20 years, but he is unsure whether he will continue to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency. He says he will be much more "guarded" in the future and has installed video and audio equipment in his business.

Gilkerson says he is worried about going about jail. Gilkerson says his business, which also offers kayaking service and scuba diving, would likely have to close if he went to prison for any extended period of time.

Gilkerson says the support of local hunters has been appreciated.

Governor Mike Rounds has asked that Prieksat be fired or transferred because of his abusive treatment of local hunters and anglers. Gilkerson says that controversy, and his court case, are two different issues.
Read that here.


Anonymous said…
Call it by any other name, a lynch mob is a lynch mob ... and that's what the 60 or so names involved in the smear campaign against the federal agent are all about. When a federal judge finds someone guilty of breaking a law that the accused is very much aware of after many years of being in the business, there is no excuse. Pay the fine, admit the wrong and move on. What's going on in Pierre with Wicker Bill and the gang is the age old war against law enforcement when it comes to the public's right to hunt ... and their chosen battlefront is to public crucify a federal agent who puts his life in harm's way to do his job.

I support our law enforcement agents in the state and federal governments and I support the enforcement of our state and national wildlife laws which protect our natural resources. Mike Rounds, who serves as the Governor of Pierre, obviously lacks any respect for our law enforcement community and for the laws that protect our hunting and fishing resources. All Mike cares about is pandering to the elite coffee clatch in Pierre and the spoils of government largess for his family and frients.
Anonymous said…
Caleb....dont do the crime if you cant do the time.....whining will get you no where.....
Anonymous said…
I don't know if Prieksat is overzealous or not. Maybe he is on occasion, maybe not. But he wasn't this time around. The perp was caught red-handed.

The defense allegation that Prieksat removed tags from 32 geese to set Gilkerson up is pure BS. The judge didn't believe it either.
Anonymous said…
the polygraph did.
Anonymous said…
Well it appears that Rounds isn't even the mayor of Pierre. Rob S has relegated him to acting mayor.
Anonymous said…
This whole bizzare episode is simply designed to shift the focus of abusive incompetence away from the administration of the state of south dakota. Plus, you throw in a little vendetta, and walla, here is a manufactured controversy. With the assitance of the comrade Cooper's accomplice Kevin Wooster, it is deciminated to the uneducated masses to try to make someone other than GF&P look bad. It doesn't matter that one man alone could not have created all of the problems that exist with the all important fish police.

Rounds, just remember, you can't fool all of the people all of the time.
William said…
Does anyone know if there are links to additional background on this issue? I've read a couple of articles but I don't know enough history behind this to know whether this is politically based or if it's a case of a "bully with a badge".

I know there are some officers that abuse their power but it also sounds like there may have been some "connected" people they've crossed...

It looks like this "can of worms" hasn't been emptied, yet...
Anonymous said…
"walla" or;
"voila" ?

This sucks that you can't use spellcheck, i know.

'uneducated mass member'

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