South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks (SDGFP) has a long and highly successful history of working with private landowners to develop wetland and grassland habitat within the PPJV. As an active partner within the PPJV, SDGFP recognizes that the majority of wildlife habitat is held by private landowners, making successful partnerships with producers is critical. In recent years one of its most successful conservation efforts has been the James River Watershed Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.
Administered by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, CREP is simply a “state-sponsored” Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) designed for a specific geographic area to address resource concerns identified by state partners.
In South Dakota, the focus of CREP is improving water quality, reducing soil erosion, and providing flood control, while creating additional pheasant nesting habitat in the James River Watershed. The state of South Dakota provides CREP participants an additional incentive payment on top of their CRP rental rate as well as cost-share assistance for habitat establishment. In all, the state is providing over 20% of the total funds to implement the James River CREP. The first CREP program of its kind, every acre enrolled in the James River CREP is open to public hunting and fishing.
As of the fall of 2013, over 82,000 acres were enrolled into this highly successful habitat and access program. The SD James River CREP has provided a strong boost for resident and migratory wildlife in eastern South Dakota, while providing hunters with high quality hunting areas within South Dakota’s primary pheasant range.
SDGFP private lands staff also work cooperatively with farmers and ranchers to better manage wetland and grassland habitats through the department’s Wetland and Grassland Habitat Program. Private lands biologists located across the state work with landowners – primarily producers engaged in grass-based livestock operations – to plan and implement a variety of on-the-ground conservation practices. Technical and financial assistance is provided for the following practices:
Wetland Restorations Wetland Creations and Enhancements Water Development Grassland Restorations Grassland/Grazing Enhancements Riparian Pastures Wildlife Friendly Fences
Since 2009 biologists have completed 135 projects with private landowner cooperators to enhance or restore 15,193 acres of upland habitat and 180 acres of associated wetland habitat within the PPJV portion of South Dakota. SDGFP’s cost share totaled nearly $708,000 with total project funds exceeding $1.4 million.
Cooperative efforts with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited, local conservation districts, and others are also important to efficiently and effectively deliver program funds through partnerships.
To learn more, contact Tom Kirschenmann.