Livestock farmers vital for the environment | Community

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South Dakota cattle ranchers play an important role in maintaining grassland health by improving water quality and increasing biodiversity. In turn, maintaining grassland health will help improve forage quality for livestock and ultimately increase profitability.

South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks (SDGFP) recently hired eight new Private Land Habitat Biologists (PLHB) for a current total of 12 in the State of South Dakota to help landowners increase profitability of their land, while improving wildlife habitat at the same time.

The SDGFP offers a variety of cost-sharing options for landowners to improve their grazing operation. These cost-sharing options include native grass seeding, fencing, and water features such as rural water connections, pipelines, reservoirs, and wells. The department is also prepared to restore wetlands at a 100% cost-share rate.

Along with the importance of wetlands and properly managed grazing systems is pollinator habitat. Pollinators have been in decline for over 30 years, partly due to habitat loss/fragmentation. State, federal, and nonprofit organizations understand the value of pollinators and offer a variety of programs and cost-sharing to repurpose more land to be representative of native prairie. The SDGFP has now stepped up its efforts in this regard and is proposing a new pollinator program for 2022. The program targets smaller areas (2-9 acres) that may not be eligible for other federal and non-profit programs offered statewide. These smaller plots of land could include, but are not limited to, irrigation wedges, marginal agricultural acres, or areas that large equipment cannot reach. The SDGFP will provide the landowner with a 100% cost share up to $150/acre for grass and wildflower seed only.

If anyone has questions about the SDGFP programs or other private land habitat programs offered statewide, contact Todd Crownover of Tyndall. Crownover covers Bon Homme, Yankton, Clay, Union, Lincoln, Turner and Hutchinson counties. He graduated from Peru State College in Nebraska with a BS in wildlife ecology. He worked as a South Dakota wildlife conservation officer for nearly 29 years before becoming a habitat biologist. He works closely with the FSA and ASCS offices, and your local Pheasants Forever farm bill biologist with the CRP, CREP on the James River and Big Sioux and other programs.

For all your grass, exclusion fencing, food plots, trees, or Walk-In-Area needs, call them. He can be reached by phone at 605-464-0647 or by email [email protected]

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