DU Sits Down with Secretary of Interior Salazar in South Dakota

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Focus on working agricultural landscapes to benefit prairie conservation

“If there are any examples of commitment to the Dakota grasslands, it is the fact that Ducks Unlimited would put $50 million on the table for that”

Ducks Unlimited says U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s visit to South Dakota this week brings new light to America’s disappearing native prairie. Salazar met with DU and other conservation partners today to talk about the Dakota Grassland Conservation Area that would bring more dollars to retaining grassland through conservation easements on private land.

“This project will conserve our vanishing prairie for wildlife, ranchers and the general public,” said Jim Ringelman, DU director of conservation programs for North and South Dakota. “It keeps the land in private ownership, using voluntary easements while maintaining farmland used for grazing and haying.”

Ringelman says, with a waiting list of more than 600 willing landowners in the Dakotas, there is no shortage of interest in ranchers wanting to sell conservation easements. “The real limiting factor is the funding,” he said. “The Dakota Grassland Conservation Area designation would bring us closer to enrolling all of those who have applied.”

Salazar says the Dakota Grassland Conservation Area would build a new national model for the protection of working agricultural landscapes while benefiting wildlife. He applauded DU’s commitment to invest $50 million over 10 years for easements under the Dakota Grassland initiative. “If there are any examples of commitment to the Dakota grasslands, it is the fact that Ducks Unlimited would put $50 million on the table for that,” Salazar said.

Ringelman says native prairie and wetlands help South Dakota’s economy with beef production and tourism dependent on these two resources. “Cattle producers are critical to protecting the prairie landscape,” he said. “Cows need the same thing waterfowl do – grass and water.”

Salazar spent the afternoon at Jim Faltstich’s ranch near Highmore. “It’s a real privilege to have Secretary Salazar in South Dakota and be able to have a number of ranchers visit with him about the importance of native grassland,” Falstich said. “When these grasslands are properly managed, the concerns of everyone involved are addressed, whether it's profitability of the rancher, wildlife or environmental issues such as water.”

The Dakota Grassland Conservation Area will be funded with dollars already dedicated to conservation. Under the proposal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will seek to acquire easements from willing sellers on approximately two million acres of native prairie habitat to benefit wildlife and support traditional economic activities, specifically livestock production.

To view this release online, click here.

Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 12 million acres, thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.

Becky Jones Mahlum

Jennifer Kross


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Lauren Oxner