Mountain-Prairie Region  Partners for Fish & Wildlife
Conservation Strategies


photo of mallards lifting off the waterSouth Dakota was historically characterized by vast expanses of native tall-grass and mixed-grass prairie. The eastern portion of the state is interspersed with high densities of small glacially derived wetlands, making this a vital portion of the famous "Prairie Pothole" Region. In 2000, over 3 million breeding duck pairs were surveyed in eastern South Dakota. While the ecology of South Dakota was historically defined by this unique combination of grassland and wetland resources, habitat loss has been significant and continues to change the character of this landscape. Over 30% of the prairie wetlands and over 40% of the state’s native prairie have been lost. In particular, native prairie loss continues to be a resource concern with over 750,000 acres of native prairie lost to other uses since just 1985. Once native prairie is lost, we currently do not have the ability or understanding to fully restore these unique systems. Native prairies are very diverse and complex ecological systems that developed over thousands of years consistently host over 100 native plant species and a host of uniquely adapted invertebrate assemblages.

Conservation Strategies

photo of Partners staff discussing projects with South Dakota landowners photoThe primary conservation strategy of the South Dakota Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is to work with local partner groups and landowners to foster actions that jointly further landscape conservation and sustainable agriculture. The cornerstone of this philosophy is based on a valuable partnership with the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts and their member county Conservation Districts. This partnership has resulted in hundreds of jointly sponsored habitat projects and is a shining example of locally led conservation. County Conservation Districts have a proven conservation ethic and bring a critical degree of local knowledge and landowner support to resource issues. They literally serve as the local eyes and ears of the South Dakota Partners effort.

South Dakota prairie stream photoConsistent with this philosophy, the South Dakota Partners Program tailors projects to facilitate both resource conservation and sustainable agriculture. For example, wetland developments often provide waterfowl production, watershed restoration, and livestock water benefits, all on the same site. Likewise, rotational grazing systems help to simultaneously enhance native prairie plant communities and livestock performance. Furthermore, native grassland restorations provide immediate benefits to all guilds of ground nesting birds and are also greatly valued by ranchers as premium livestock grazing land. With the vast majority of South Dakota’s land in private ownership, these types of "win-win" projects are essential to an effective ecosystem conservation effort.

The average cost for Partners habitat restoration activities are:

  • $600/acre for wetland restoration
  • $150/acre for native grass seeding
  • $40/acre for grassland enhancement
  • $1,600/acre for wetland establishment

Future Needs

  • Restore or develop 20,000 wetland acres
  • Restore or enhance 200,000 grassland acres
  • Restore 50 miles of prairie streams
  • New partnerships with 5,000 landowners