GFP Commission Chair Olson steps down, 8-person body now 6

Olson stepping down leaves two vacancies on the eight-person body

By: - November 11, 2022 2:26 pm

A few of Russ Olson’s most memorable hunts (Courtesy Photo).

Russell Olson, chair of the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Commission, will step down from the body that helps oversee the department.

“As an avid outdoorsman, it has been a privilege to serve on the commission,” Olson said. “I value my time served and am excited for the direction the agency is heading.”

Olson said he grew too busy with life, his work as CEO of Heartland Energy, and the other boards he serves on.

There are now two vacancies on the eight-person body, whose members are appointed by the governor. Olson said he’s confident in remaining commissioners – who he says are outdoors enthusiasts with a commitment to the state’s hunting heritage. 

“I hope part of my legacy of service is developing more opportunities for youth, from hunting to experiencing their first catch,” Olson said. “I am incredibly proud of the increased access to hunting, habitat, and conservation as well as increased state park visits.”

The commission’s authority includes decisions on the dates of hunting seasons, license fees, hunting and angling rules, and other responsibilities for state parks.

Olson’s term was scheduled to end on January 10, 2024.

Commissioner Doug Sharp created the first vacancy. Sharp was appointed by former Gov. Dennis Daugaard and reappointed by Gov. Kristi Noem, but resigned in May. Sharp said he’d grown too busy with his businesses.

State law says no more than four commissioners may be from the same political party, no less than four shall be farmers, and three must live west of the Missouri River while five must be from East River.

Both Olson’s and Sharps’ vacancies must be filled by East River Republicans.

Olson was a Republican member of the state legislature from 2008 to 2013. In 2013, he served as State Senate Majority Leader.

Some public land hunters and anglers feel underrepresented by the current Game, Fish and Parks Commission, and they hope to see a board member from a grassroots group – like the South Dakota Wildlife Federation or Black Hills Sportsmen Club – appointed to a vacant seat.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Joshua Haiar
Joshua Haiar

Joshua Haiar is a reporter based in Sioux Falls. Born and raised in Mitchell, he joined the Navy as a public affairs specialist after high school and then earned a degree from the University of South Dakota. Prior to joining South Dakota Searchlight, Joshua worked for five years as a multimedia specialist and journalist with South Dakota Public Broadcasting.