South Dakota ES - Contaminants
Mountain-Prairie Region
Graphic button showing the 8 state mountain prairie region

Environmental Contaminants


Environmental Contaminants | Contaminants of Concern | National Environmental Contaminants Program

  • Arapaho---Hampton-Barn---2006

    Pattern tiling near a Waterfowl Production Area in Madison Wetland Management District

  • Baca---Antelope-Springs-Site---2013

    Point source discharge from an agricultural tile drain into a Service managed wetland.

  • Baca---Barn-at-Main-Headquarters---2013

    Wetland cleanup after a tanker truck spilled oil into a Service easement wetland near Aberdeen, SD

  • Baca---Hearth-and-Manos---2006

    Personnel with the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks and the Service remove dead and moribund mallards from 2011 die-off location near Pierre, SD.

Environmental Contaminants Program South Dakota

Map of the 8 state Mountain-Prairie Region.

Prevention is an important aspect of the EC Program in South Dakota. If a potential problem can be avoided, it benefits everyone. Providing EC technical assistance and coordination with other entities is important to identify concerns and develop solutions.  In 2012, South Dakota logged over 300 EC Program actions that included technical assistance reviews, pesticide consultations, contaminant and wildlife mortality investigations, spill response, and other contaminant related assessments.

Technical Assistance Project/Permit Reviews

The Service has responsibility, under a number of authorities, to review projects and develop solutions that protect and enhance Service trust resources.  Trust resources are those resources for which the Service has been given specific responsibilities under Federal law and include migratory birds, interjurisdictional fishes, federally listed threatened or endangered species, and lands owned or leased by the Service.  Federal natural resource laws administered by the Service include the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (FWCA), the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).  In addition to these statutes, the Service has authority under several other legislative, regulatory, and executive mandates.  For example, under the Clean Water Act (CWA) we coordinate with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to address issues with water quality standards and point-source discharge permits.

Environmental Contaminant Investigations

An important and unique aspect of the EC Program is the ability to conduct environmental contaminant investigations to measure pollutant exposure and effects to our trust resources.  This is accomplished through a competitive proposal process designed to select investigations that will result in management actions that reduce or eliminate harmful contaminant exposures.  There is no equivalent federal or state annual request for proposals (RFP) to evaluate contaminant/wildlife issues.  Historically there have been two funding sources for investigations both on and off Service managed properties, respectively.  However, the last RFP for off- refuge lands was for 2011.

Past off-refuge investigations in South Dakota include evaluations of contaminant exposure to migratory birds and species federally listed under the ESA. In 2011, we completed a report with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to evaluate concentrations of chlorophacinone in prairie dogs exposed to an anticoagulant rodenticide in order to evaluate exposure to non-target wildlife that eat prairie dogs (Click here for link to publications page). 

With on-refuge investigations we have evaluated contaminant exposure and effects to wildlife and habitat on Service lands in South Dakota.  In 2012, we initiated an on-refuge investigation to evaluate the exposure and effects of agricultural tile drains that discharge onto Service managed wetlands within Madison Wetland Management District.  Results to date found that nitrate and selenium concentrations discharged from agricultural tile exceeds water quality standards or benchmarks for the protection of aquatic life and/or human health.  This information was presented to the Minnehaha County Drainage Board in September, 2012.  Agricultural tile drains can discharge nutrients, pesticides and elemental contaminants such as selenium, possibly at concentrations that are harmful to wildlife either directly by toxic action (as with exposure to pesticides) or indirectly by habitat modification (as with increased nutrient enrichment).  Over the next two years we plan to work with our partners to further evaluate water quality associated with the tile drains.

Pesticide Consultations

Technical assistance regarding pesticide use is often provided to prevent harmful exposures to non-target wildlife species.  Pesticide consultations in South Dakota include:  Pesticide Use Proposals and Integrated Pesticide Managements plans developed for use of pesticides on Service lands, insecticide applications by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to manage grasshoppers or other pest species, Section 18 exemptions for agricultural pesticides, and registration of pesticides by states or EPA.   

In 2012, the Service consulted with EPA on their registration of Rozol Prairie Dog Bait (Rozol).  EC Specialists helped prepare a Biological Opinion designed to protect federally listed species from the adverse effects of Rozol use.  However, the Biological Opinion concluded that measures adopted to protect listed species are inadequate for protecting raptors and that unpermitted take of eagles and other migratory birds are expected to continue.

Spill Response

Spills of various materials sometimes occur at different locations throughout South Dakota. The Service is notified of these spills by both state and federal agencies. An incident report is received for each spill. The Service reviews these reports, calls any appropriate contacts, and responds as needed. Fortunately, due to an absence of large urban areas and some isolation from major transportation corridors, South Dakota experiences fewer and less severe spills than many other states.

Wildlife Mortality Investigations

Similar to spill response, the Environmental Contaminants Program often provides technical assistance and coordination to help evaluate episodic fish and wildlife dies-offs. We also welcome outreach from concerned citizens when they observe what could be a wildlife poisoning. Working with our partners, we can submit specimens for diagnostic necropsy and contaminant residue analyses.

Mortality investigations may range in size from one individual where contaminant exposure is suspected to thousands of individuals with unknown  causation.  For example, in 2011, a mallard die-off at a pond near the Okobojo Creek arm of Lake Oahe included more than 7,000 thousand mallards.  Working in coordination with the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks and the National Wildlife Health Center, we were able to attribute the cause to respiratory fungal infections from eating moldy corn.  Mallards were likely infected when they ingested moldy corn from a silage pile at a nearby feedlot although lab findings did not definitively determine it as the source.

Contaminant Assessments on Service Lands

The Contaminant Assessment Process (CAP) is a cooperative effort between U.S. Geological Survey and the Service to develop a database on contaminant exposure pathways and risk for Service lands throughout the U.S., including South Dakota.  In the 1990’s CAPs were completed for most of South Dakota’s National Wildlife Refuges and Wetland Management Districts.  We requested funding for fiscal year 2013 to perform CAP updates for Huron Wetland Management District and Bear Butte National Wildlife Refuge. 

National EC Webpage:

Region 6 EC Webpage:

For further information on South Dakota contaminants issues,
contact Matt Schwarz at 605-224-8693 ext. 232


The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: July 10, 2019
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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