The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program
in South Dakota uses a "no rules" philosophy to develop partnerships and
programs that simultaneously promote wildlife conservation and sustainable agriculture.
|Dennis and Jean
Fagerland, South Dakota farmers and Partners participants, capture this spirit and note
that the program "has proven itself to work, making agriculture and wildlife
compatible with one another."
The South Dakota Partners Program
has utilized this philosophy to voluntarily restore, enhance, and develop tens of
thousands of acres of grassland and wetland habitats throughout the state, all with full
landowner support and encouragement. A common thread through every South Dakota Partners
project is the ability to be flexible and responsive enough to accommodate the
site-specific needs and concerns of landowners. Since 1991, this approach has resulted in
over 6,300 South Dakota landowners becoming valued Partners for Fish and Wildlife
partners, and the number of new landowner requests for assistance continues to accelerate.
South Dakota Activities
The five primary restoration and
enhancement activities in the South Dakota Partners Program include wetland establishment,
wetland restoration, managed grazing systems, grassland seeding, and riparian enhancement.
- Wetland establishments typically consist
of constructing small impoundments (6 to 8 feet deep and averaging 2 to 3 surface acres)
on small drainages (less than 1,000 acres). Wetland establishments generally are
constructed in grassland dominated landscapes utilized for livestock grazing.
- Wetland restorations primarily consist
of plugging surface ditches with earthen plugs. Wetland restorations conducted through the
South Dakota Partners Program are most often associated with U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service conservation easements or the Conservation Reserve Program.
- Managed grazing system are predominately
conducted in areas of high wetland densities (greater than 40/square mile) and native
grassland. Four cell twice over grazing systems are the most popular systems used. In
these systems, grazing units are split into four pastures and each pasture is grazed twice
through the course of the grazing season.
- Grassland seedings primarily involve
seeding of cropland back to a mixture of native grasses and forbs. Typically five to seven
species of grasses are used.
- Riparian enhancement projects involve
the fencing of streams or riparian areas to exclude livestock. These riparian areas
usually are utilized for livestock watering, and therefore alternate livestock watering
facilities are often created in conjunction with the riparian exclusions. Watering
facilities consist of wetland establishments, dugouts, or pipe lines.
We work with a wide variety of partners
to implement high priority wetland and grassland conservation projects. Of particular
importance is our work with ranchers to conserve grasslands for future generations of both
landowners and wildlife. This priority scheme is consistent with and fulfills the
implementation priorities denoted by a wide variety of conservation efforts including the
North American Waterfowl Management Plan, the South Dakota Coordinated Soil and Water
Conservation Plan and Partners in Flight. For example, the Partners in Flight plan for
western South Dakota states that: "Maintenance of a ranching economy here is
compatible with the needs of grassland birds and should be the highest conservation
In general, the long-term goal of the
South Dakota Partners Program is to promote a sustainable future for rural comminities,
landowners and wildlife alike by restoring, enhancing creating and conserving high
priority wetland and grassland habitats.