In early 2021, Pheasants Forever (PF) successfully concluded a generous grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) awarded via their Northern Great Plains initiative. During the three-year grant period, PF worked closely with the USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife (PFW) program, and the South Dakota (SD) Department of Game, Fish and Parks to implement grazing management plans on 34 ranches (44,533 acres) throughout western SD. A wide variety of conservation practices, including fence and water resources were tailored to help meet the unique stewardship goals of each ranch. The USFWS Habitat and Population Evaluation Team (HAPET) was also an essential partner. HAPET provided a new generation of Decision Support Tools to help refine project selection, with an emphasis on grasshopper sparrow and western meadowlark conservation.
The Neuharth Family of Fort Pierre, SD was one of the families that PF had the pleasure of partnering with as part of this NFWF grant. The land ethic of Levi and Crystal Neuharth epitomizes the shared vision of grassland stewardship found throughout the NGPJV. The specific work completed with the Neuharth family via this NFWF grant involved installing fence and livestock water developments (as outlined in a USFWS PFW Landowner Agreement) to facilitate managed grazing on 70 acres of cropland restored to grass, and an additional 159 acres of existing grasslands which had recently expired from the Conservation Reserve Program. The NFWF project was designed to complement the larger Neuharth operation (Prairie Paradise Farms) and their long-term stewardship goals. Levi and Crystal Neuharth rotationally graze beef cattle on 3,000 acres of grassland and grow a diverse rotation of crops on 2,400 acres of farmland in west-central South Dakota.
Levi and Crystal assumed management of Prairie Paradise Farms from Levi’s father, David, in 2016. The Neuharth’s were selected for the 2021 South Dakota Leopold Award because of their commitment to stewardship, strong land ethic, adoption of soil health practices, and community involvement. Only through dedicated landowner partners like Levi and Crystal Neuharth will the NGPJV be able to meet its grassland stewardship goals.