Resource Management

Cattle 512X219

Resource Management Actions can impact local wildlife populations. Farming, grazing, and burning are important management tools that help the Huron WMD improve wildlife habitat. Prior to the settlement of South Dakota, historical records estimate that the prairies burned at least every 5 years. Prairie plants have special adaptations that allow them to survive and even flourish after a fire.


During the winter months, planning is underway for the lands that are managed by the Huron Wetland Management District (WMD). As we get closer to spring it is very common to get asked, "Why do you burn?", "Why don't you graze more or less?", "Why are you farming a Waterfowl Production Area?" Every spring, the managers at Huron WMD discuss which WPA's we are going to burn, graze, or farm. Our management activities attempt to mimic what happened on the prairie for hundreds of years before European settlement. These historic activities included huge prairie wildfires, and grazing by millions of bison. Native plants and animals have adaptations that allow them to survive year after year.

In order to choose the best management treatment, we look at what has happened on that WPA in past years. Other factors that drive our management practices are, how serious is the invasive plant infestation, what kind of grass is found on the WPA, and what are our management goals for that WPA. After evaluating all these factors, the decision is made to graze, burn, or farm that particular WPA. District staff carefully considers any management techniques and employs them in varying degrees according to the situation. 

Prescribed burning, mowing, experimental bio-control insect releases, and seeding are also some of the techniques used to help native plants recover on district WPA's.

Public involvement and input are important to us and to the planning process. We hope you will take an active interest in the process, individually and as a community. If you have any questions regarding management on our WPA's, please give our office a call. 

 

Farming

"Why do we farm WPAs?" Typically the Huron WMD farms a particular WPA for three years prior to reseeding the area back to native grasses. We only farm ground that has previously been farmed, and contains stands of invasive non-native tame grasses such as smooth brome, crested wheatgrass, and Kentucky Bluegrass. Typically we farm the first year with corn, followed by two years of oats or soybeans. Soybean fields create a very firm seedbed and have very little crop residue. This allows the area to be ready for planting the following spring. Typically the FWS doesn't plant food plots. However, when we are farming an area, part of the cooperator's permit will require them is to leave a food plot. 

A few years after an area has been replanted to grass, some type of management is needed to remove excess dead vegetation to stimulate growth. Grazing or burning are the preferred management tools. Haying is less preferred because it tends to remove desired native grass species from seeded areas and promotes invasive grasses such as smooth brome.

 

Grazing

"Why do we graze?" Grazing is done alone or in conjunction with burning. Like burning or farming, we graze an area to help improve or stimulate the native grasses and reduce invasive non-native grasses. A Cooperator will put their cows on the WPA early in the spring or after a prescribed burn, just as the area starts to green up. The grasses the cows focus on are the invasive grasses such as smooth brome and crested wheatgrass. These are usually the first to green up each spring. The strategy behind this is the tame grasses will become stressed from grazing thus giving the native grasses a better chance to out compete them. Management units are grazed for a short period of time usually one month or less. A few WPAs are being grazed during the entire grazing season in conjunction with a prescribed burn as part of a "patch, burn, graze" adaptive management strategy.

 

Fire Management

The district uses a crew of Service firefighters and staff to conduct prescribed burns on WPA's. As with grazing, the main goal is to control invasive plant species. Burns are usually conducted in the spring right are the grass begins to green. If needed we will conduct fall prescribe burns. Our focus is on habitat management but it is our duty to provide public and firefighter safety. The protection of private property is a must. We take every precaution to keep the burn controlled and within the WPA boundary. Weather and drought conditions are limiting factors for prescribe fire operations. If due to these conditions the burn is not safe, we will not conduct the burn that day. Visit the Huron Fire Management page to learn more about fire as a management tool.

 

Cooperators

Cooperators are area farmers and ranchers. A cooperator is given the option to lease the land through an open bid system. The lease will be in accordance with the Animal Unit Month (AUM) rate set annually by the Service for South Dakota. An AUM is the amount of forage required by an animal for one month. In addition to grazing, the cooperator must agree to repair existing boundary fence, install temporary fence, or haul water. Anyone that is interested in grazing or farming an area, please contact the District office at 605-352-5894. You will be added to the list of potential cooperators.