Grant Used to Increase Grassland in South Dakota

by Matt Morlock, Pheasants Forever, ND/SD State Coordinator

Pheasants Forever has completed on-the-ground activities within Phases I & II of the grant 'Using Decision-Support Tools to Deliver Grassland Bird Conservation.' This grant was developed by the USFWS Habitat and Population Evaluation Team (HAPET) as a way to deliver a multitude of grazing systems. Partners collaborating on this grant include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (USFWS-PFW), National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Northern Great Plains Joint Venture, and others.

The goal behind this project was to develop a tract prioritization protocol based on new grassland bird decision support tools. This protocol will help partners identify grassland tracts on private land in western South Dakota with high value to grassland nesting passerines, specifically western meadowlarks and grasshopper sparrows. A special emphasis was placed on reaching out to landowners who have expiring Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) tracts that are identified as high priority by HAPET models.

Starting in 2018, Phases I & II of the grant worked with a total of 34 landowners in 10 counties throughout western South Dakota. These landowners were willing to install new grazing systems or update existing systems, impacting a total of 44,532 acres. To date, the partnership has delivered more than $390,000 in grant funds to South Dakota’s livestock producers through these activities and plans to deliver more.

Phase III has just begun. Throughout the life of the grant, Pheasants Forever and partners plan to deliver at least 14,000 additional acres of grazing systems on strategically selected grassland tracts in western South Dakota. Once again, partners will place emphasis on lands that have expired or expiring CRP tracts. If you know of any interested producers, please contact your local Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist.

    Photo Credit- Joe Nichols