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Creating multiple purpose wetlands to enhance livestock grazing distribution, range condition and waterfowl production in western South Dakota




Forman, K. J., author
Madsen, C. R., author
Hogan, M. J., author
U.S. Committee on Irrigation and Drainage, publisher

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Creating multiple purpose wetlands on large unfragmented tracts of western grasslands affords a unique opportunity to serve both ranching and wildlife interests by simultaneously enhancing livestock performance, range condition, and waterfowl production. While surface water developments on western grasslands have long been recognized as an effective technique for improving grazing distribution, more recent data suggest that such developments also have high potential for waterfowl production. Dabbling duck productivity rates per surface acre of water in these systems are often 2-4 times higher than in more traditional habitats of the Prairie Pothole Region where waterfowl managers have traditionally focused their efforts. Throughout the Prairie Pothole Region dabbling duck recruitment appears to be severely limited by the combined influences of nesting habitat fragmentation and artificially high predator densities supported by anthropogenic landscape changes. Conversely, western grasslands are characterized by relatively large tracts of nesting cover, low density predator communities, and as a result, high duck productivity when adequate surface water is available. Recognizing the multiple benefits of created wetlands, beginning in 1992 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated a unique statewide partnership in South Dakota to create multiple purpose wetlands on private and tribal grasslands. Emphasis was placed on creating multiple purpose wetlands on large unfragmented tracts of grassland, including for the first time, sites outside of the traditional Prairie Pothole Region. Primary partners in this program include the North American Wetlands Conservation Council, Ducks Unlimited Incorporated, Native American Tribes, the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts, the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, county Conservation Districts and individual landowners. Through this partnership over 450 wetlands have been created, with 30% occurring on western grasslands outside of the Prairie Pothole Region. As expected, tangible benefits noted from wetlands created through this partnership include improved grazing distribution and livestock performance, enhanced range condition and localized increases in waterfowl production. More importantly, as a result of this program many participating landowners have expressed a renewed enthusiasm for the intangible benefits of wildlife conservation. Interest in this program continues to grow providing an example of a true working partnership between agriculture and wildlife.


Presented at Water for agriculture and wildlife and the environment: win-win opportunities: proceedings from the USCID wetlands seminar on June 27-29, 1996 in Bismarck, North Dakota.

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