Special attention is given by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to proposed developments that may include the modification of wetlands, or stream alteration, or contamination of other important habitats such as riparian (streamside woodlands or shrub) communities, especially if migratory birds or threatened or endangered species could be adversely impacted. During the interagency consultation process (often involving state, other federal, and private agencies) the Service recommends ways to avoid, minimize, rectify, reduce, or compensate for damaging impacts to important or sensitive fish and wildlife resources and their habitats
Some of the programs that the Ecological Services Office in Pierre participates in include: project review, regulatory, technical assistance, acquisition, and incentive programs. This office is particularly involved in the first two of these programs. National Wildlife Refuges, Wetland Management Districts, Partners for Wildlife Offices, and Acquisitions Offices participate in the latter three programs.
Project review programs: Legislative Acts and subsequent Amendments, such as the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act of 1958, National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act), Endangered Species Act of 1973, and Executive Orders 11988 (Floodplain Management) and 11990 (Protection of Wetlands) encourage and in some cases mandate the Fish and Wildlife Service involvement in the review of projects or proposals that may impact wetlands. To assist in the review of projects, the Service developed a mitigation policy that involves sequential steps intended to first avoid, then minimize, and finally compensate adverse impacts to natural resources, including wetlands. This sequential approach to minimizing resource impacts allows the vast majority of projects reviewed by the Service to proceed while still providing opportunity to make adjustments that lessen adverse impacts to natural resources.
Regulatory programs: Some national laws, such as the Clean Water Act, have many sections that affect wetlands, with various sections administered by different agencies. The Service provides comments and recommendations to these administrating agencies, both on individual projects and on the development of rules to implement the statutes. The Service comments on regulatory programs are typically constrained to development and implementation of rules that conserve, protect, and enhance natural resources.
Technical assistance programs: The Service, along with other natural resource agencies in South Dakota, participate daily in efforts to exchange information and expertise to benefit wetland resources. These efforts are often collective tasks with private landowners and other agencies or municipalities and many times involve incentives as well as technical assistance.
Incentive programs: The Service administers a variety of programs that cost share, and in some cases, the entire capital cost of projects, to restore, create, enhance, or preserve wetlands. Typically, these projects are constructed in conjunction with private landowners via cooperative agreements and result in improvements to the wetland resource in South Dakota. In order to protect wetland resources for the future, the Service also offers financial incentives to willing landowners to participate in a wetland easement program. This involves a one time payment to the landowner in exchange for an easement that restricts the draining, burning, leveling, or filling of the wetlands. The landowner retains other rights including ownership and agricultural production.
Acquisition programs: The Service manages a wetland acquisition program whereby suitable properties are purchased from willing sellers. Many factors are taken into consideration in the decision to purchase land, including acreage of wetlands, configuration, management capabilities, etc. Often, the involved parties may decide that the Service easements are more appropriate than outright purchase and create an agreement accordingly.