One of the strongest motivations for land protection is a deep connection to a place, and a desire to ensure that place remains intact for future generations to enjoy. South Dakota rancher Wendi Rinehart has a truly profound connection to the land on which her family relies.
Born in Wisconsin, home to deep valleys and large forests, Wendi finds beauty in everything around her.
She fell in love with her husband Brady—and at the same time with the rolling prairie he called home: the Pompadour Hills Ranch in Highmore.
“The vastness can be overwhelming,” says Wendi. “But I always tell people that the best way to see the roots of this country is to get off of the highways and onto the gravel roads. This is the heartland that feeds our nation, and keeps it strong. These prairies are 10,000 years old and have the best soil in the world. They are not only important natural resources, they are irreplaceable. It is time we recognized that.”
Years ago, Wendi’s father-in-law looked into conservation easements for their ranch. In the intervening years, the family saw more and more of the prairie broken for unsustainable farming operations.
This motivated Wendi to contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and ask about easements. After numerous conversations and a fine-tooth-comb review of the contract, the Rineharts agreed to place an easement on more than 5,000 acres.
“If you’re going to run cattle, and you want to protect your ranch’s future, you have to diversify your options. Our land was homesteaded generations ago. When my father-in-law purchased it, we agreed to keep the bulk of it in grass. The easement gives us a way to fulfill that promise, and it makes us proud to be able to do so.”
Her passion for protecting the prairie has led Wendi to many unexpected places, from hosting land managers and federal agencies at her ranch, to speaking at the White House.
Regardless of who she talks to, Wendi’s approach is the same: “I talk about the prairie, and what it means to live here and to raise a family here. The prairie is America, and we keep our flag raised every day while we go about our work. Living here is a gift, and it is our responsibility to protect it.”