Mountain-Prairie Region  Partners for Fish & Wildlife
Introduction and General Description

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." wetland restoration on the Fagerland farm photo

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.

breaking ground for a new wetland photo South Dakota Partners for Fish and Wildlife technician

South Dakota Activities

Wetland development
Wetland restoration
Grassland enhancement
Grassland restoration
Riparian restoration
Prescribed burns

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 priority."

Long-Term Goals

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.