Accomplishments To Date
To date, the Partnership has worked with more than 85 producers across 14 counties in northeast South Dakota and burned more than 8,000 acres of privately-owned grasslands. See our burn schedule table here.
Fire Training for Private Landowners
As the private lands program has grown, we have received more requests to participate in the program. To better accommodate these requests, we began to provide basic training to interested landowners so they could burn their own lands, if desired, or create the fire plans and hire contractors to do the burning. We worked closely with Nature Conservancy fire experts, Pheasants Forever and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to design NRCS- and FSA-approved fire plans. This enabled landowners to create their own fire plans and certified some NRCS employees to approve them. Since 2013, we have hosted this training nine times across South Dakota. We have also hosted controlled fire trainings for volunteer fire departments.
Mapping Prairie Sod on South Dakota’s Prairie Coteau
In 2014 the Conservancy worked with South Dakota State University, with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, to comprehensively map the remaining undisturbed prairie sod on the Prairie Coteau in South Dakota, for the first time ever. With the high rates of conversion of prairie to other uses, it was important to get this done. We obtained critical data for the project from the South Dakota Farm Services Agency, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. We examined every section (approximately 8,500) across the Prairie Coteau to identify unbroken sod. We found that approximately 20 percent (1.1 million acres) of the Prairie Coteau (5.4 million acres) remains as undisturbed sod, and approximately 25 percent of the unbroken sod is under permanent protection. (See the full report entitled Quantifying Undisturbed Land on South Dakota’s Prairie Coteau). The data we created can be used by the Conservancy and partners to identify areas that need protection. The Conservancy has provided funding to begin mapping the Missouri Coteau, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is funding mapping of the Prairie Coteau in southwest Minnesota and the Lac Qui Parle Prairie core area. We are seeking additional funding to map all of the undisturbed grasslands in South Dakota.
Sisseton-Wahpeton Bison Project
The Partnership is currently working with tribes on grazing management in order to meet pasture structural goals and restoration. We are hoping to have cooperative fire projects with BIA trust and private lands and incorporating those into burn plans.