In the fall of 2016, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (SDGFP) Private Lands Habitat Program, along with Pheasants Forever, and private landowners completed 30 wetland restorations working across 3 project areas on public and private lands in northeastern South Dakota. These areas provide important habitat for waterfowl and other wetland and grassland dependent wildlife. Furthermore, several of the restored tracts provide great public access for waterfowl hunting and bird watching. Matt Grunig, SDGFP biologist, coordinated the projects, with assistance in the first project area, from Chris Goldade, SDGFP Public Lands Manager.
The first project area was in SDGFP’s popular 650-acre Coteau Lakes Game Production Area (GPA) in Deuel County, where 22 drained wetlands were restored. This GPA is located near the eastern edge of South Dakota’s Prairie Coteau in the heart of the Prairie Pothole Region. According to PPJV partner modeling, this part of the Coteau, with its high wetland density and intact grassland, has the capacity to support as many as 80 pairs of breeding ducks per square mile. The area also provides very important spring and fall migration habitat.
With almost half of its total area comprised of a variety of wetland types, the Coteau Lakes GPA provides excellent public access for waterfowl hunting and bird watching. State funds used for this restoration project have been incorporated as matching dollars for a Ducks Unlimited NAWCA grant proposal. In a second series of projects done in cooperation with a Deuel County private landowner, SDGFP Private Lands Habitat Program partnered with Pheasants Forever to plan and complete restoration of 7 drained wetlands totaling 42 acres of highly productive Prairie Coteau wetland habitat. These restorations complement 230 acres of grassland habitat established through USDA’s Duck Nesting Habitat (CP-37) CRP practice. Because the wetlands did not meet certain CRP program requirements, SDGFP provided funds to complete the restorations through a 10-year cooperative agreement with the landowner.
The third project area is located in the James River Lowlands of eastern South Dakota, which are characterized by high densities of temporary and seasonal wetlands. However, there are relatively few semi-permanent wetlands to provide vital habitat for shorebirds and other wetland dependent species after temporary and seasonal wetlands dry down. Thus, in cooperation with a local cattle producer, SDGFP’s Private Lands Habitat Program provided cost-share funding to restore a 20-acre constructed wetland in Spink County. The pond is a source of stock water for cattle that graze the surrounding 200 acres of grassland habitat, which make up only a small portion of the cooperator’s grass-based operation. SGGFP staff worked with the landowner to develop a grazing management plan for these acres ensuring the availability of nesting cover for a variety of grassland nesting birds.
Thanks to willing landowners, committed partners, and dedicated staff, SDGFP Private Lands Habitat Program improved waterfowl and other wetland bird habitat in very productive parts of the state. Additionally, ancillary benefits from their primary wetland work included the expansion of grassland bird habitat due to simple changes in grazing management.
For more information contact Tim Olson