Bitter Lake
Puckett SD 2017 Bitter Lake ©: Joe Blastick / TNC

Newsroom | The Nature Conservancy

South Dakota Receives Gift that Doesn't Come from a Store

Landowner and The Nature Conservancy donate 580-acre wildlife area to state.

Clear Lake, SD

Just in time for the holidays, South Dakotans have been given a new place to enjoy wildlife.  

In accord with the wishes of the former landowners, The Nature Conservancy donated 580 acres located along Bitter Lake in Day County to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.   

The property has been added to the state’s Redetzke and Bitter Lake Game Production Areas and is open to the public for outdoor recreation.

Joe Blastick, the Conservancy’s Prairie Coteau conservation manager for who works out of TNC’s office in Clear Lake, thanked John and Kimberly Puckett, who live near Minneapolis, for giving the land to the Conservancy with the ultimate goal of the property going into public ownership.

“It was an incredibly generous gift to the Conservancy and we’re thrilled that we’ve been able to find it such a great new home. The property has great wildlife habitat–particularly for fish and waterfowl. South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks will be a great owner and steward,” Blastick said.

“It’s a fantastic place,” said John Puckett, the co-owner of Punch Pizza and founder and former owner of Caribou Coffee. “It is America’s Serengeti just a couple hours away from Sioux Falls.”

“This piece of property is in the heart of everything outdoors and the department looks forward to taking care of the land for generations to come,” stated Kelly Hepler, Secretary of the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. “These types of gifts don’t come around that often; so when they do, it is a reminder of how much we all value the commitment to our outdoor heritage in this state.”  

The property is home to deer, turkey, pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and ducks. It is located within both the Prairie Coteau, a landscape that encompasses the largest area of northern tallgrass prairie in the United States, and the Prairie Pothole region — a magnet for mallards, blue-winged teal, canvasbacks and other waterfowl.  

The Puckett family used the land to hunt and camp periodically over a decade before deciding to part with it.

“We wanted the land to be open to the public and we needed to move quickly to donate it,” Puckett said. “The Conservancy is known for its ability to get things done and they worked with us to make it happen.”

By donating the land to Game, Fish and Parks, the Conservancy also hopes to help generate a matching grant under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act to protect additional grassland and wetlands in South Dakota through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conservation easements.

“South Dakota ranchers and landowners who want to protect their land and their way of life are on a waiting list for these easements and this will provide more resources to help them,” said Neal Feeken, who directs the Conservancy’s grassland conservation program in South Dakota.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.