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Expanded conservation program aims to improve Big Sioux River

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks

A partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks has expanded a state conservation program that will pay agricultural landowners to turn cropland into wetlands and grasses.

The expansion of the national Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program will now cover areas in eastern South Dakota that are part of the Big Sioux River’s watershed, which includes all or parts of 18 counties in eastern South Dakota.

Enrollment for the program opened on Nov. 1.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, the program’s goal is to improve water quality and wildlife habitats, prevent soil erosion and provide hunting and fishing access to the public.

“Working together, we can deliver critical environmental benefits through voluntary conservation efforts, enhance agricultural productivity and improve water quality in South Dakota, the Big Sioux River watershed and downstream,” Steve Dick, the U.S.D.A.'s Farm Service Agency state director for South Dakota, said in the press release.

Landowners who enroll in the program can qualify for annual payments and other financial benefits from the Farm Service Agency. Additionally, the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks will give annual payments to enrolled landowners for acres that are open to public hunting and fishing access.

The U.S.D.A. and the state GF&P previously partnered to include the James River watershed in the program.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently partnered with South Dakota tribal nations in the James River watershed area to bring the program to those areas. The partnered nations include the Cheyenne River, Oglala Sioux and Rosebud Sioux Tribes.

Andrew Kronaizl is a senior at Augustana University. He is from Vermillion, SD, and is based out of SDPB's Sioux Falls studio.