Ten thousand years ago the great ice
sheet covering eastern South Dakota retreated leaving behind in its path poorly drained
and frequently flooded depressions called potholes. At the time of the European
settlement, these depressions, being surrounded by a sea of grass, became known as
"prairie potholes". It is estimated that over 35% of these pothole wetlands were
drained since the turn of the century. Today, there exists approximately 1.7 million acres
of wetlands in eastern South Dakota.
Restoring, enhancing, and protecting
wetland and grassland communities provides habitat for a vast array of indigenous wildlife
species. Although projects may target a specific species, such as planting grass
seed to provide nesting habitat for waterfowl, all species that evolved in a
grassland/wetland complex will benefit from grass seeding projects. Native ground
nesting birds will be provided additional nesting habitat, threatened or endangered
species will be provided restored habitat to pioneer, and prairie stream species will be
afforded cleaner runoff from their contributing watersheds.