Pierre, S.D. –– Upland wildlife conservationists are celebrating a milestone for South Dakota wildlife habitat with the passage of SB176. The bill, backed by Governor Kristi Noem and her Second Century Initiative to ensure the state’s second century of pheasant hunting is as great as the first, appropriates $1 million from the state’s general fund for the protection and enhancement of wildlife habitat across the state. Governor Noem signed SB176 this past Friday.
Officially, SD SB176 appropriates $1 million to provide a grant to the Second Century Initiative habitat fund held with the South Dakota Community Foundation for the protection and enhancement of wildlife habitat across the state. Matched dollar for dollar with private contributions, the funds can then serve as matching dollars for federal conservation programs or additional grants to maximize habitat funding.
“Pheasants Forever chapter volunteers and members made their collective voice heard this session, and to their credit, Governor Noem and the legislature showed leadership in keeping wildlife habitat a front-burner issue,” said Matt Morlock, Pheasants Forever’s South Dakota State Coordinator.
“South Dakota is rooted in outdoor traditions like hunting, trapping, and fishing - it’s part of who we are, and it’s an incredible driver for our economy. But these things won’t be possible in 100 years if we don’t aggressively work now to preserve our habitat,” said Governor Noem. “As South Dakota’s Sportsman in Chief, I’m working to expand habitat and pheasant hunting opportunities for the next generation. My Second Century Initiative gets kids outside, protects our native grasslands, and continues our state’s incredible outdoor legacy.”
A budding partnership between Pheasants Forever and the South Dakota Corn Growers Association serves as a prime example of how new funding can create habitat approaches that work for wildlife as well as agricultural producers in the state. The Saline Soils Initiative pays a stipend and provides seed to landowners within a 30-county area to establish perennial vegetation on cropland suffering from the detrimental effects of soil salinity. Saline/sodic soils affect an estimated 7.6 million acres of farmland in South Dakota, concentrated mainly in the Upper James River area. Each additional $1 million investment could enroll approximately 5,000 acres of marginal saline and sodic soils and provide habitat for pheasants, monarchs, pollinators and other wildlife.
Erica Yost, Pheasants Forever’s Regional Representative based in Wessington Springs, says SB176 is another critical step to improving the wildlife habitat base in South Dakota. “The key is programs that drill down to the local level, where conservation is ultimately delivered. SB176 will allow South Dakotans to lay the groundwork on agriculture and conservation working together to ensure South Dakota's second century of pheasant hunting is better than our first.”
Pheasants Forever in South Dakota
South Dakota’s 32 Pheasants Forever chapters account for 6,000 members statewide. Those chapters have spent $4.8 million to complete 24,000 habitat projects since the first South Dakota chapter was formed in Minnehaha County in 1985, projects that have improved 360,000 acres for wildlife. Additionally, Pheasants Forever’s Farm Bill biologist program originated in South Dakota in 2003. Pheasants Forever Farm Bill biologists have made more than 19,800 landowner contacts and impacted 1.37 million South Dakota acres for wildlife.
About Pheasants Forever
Pheasants Forever, including its quail conservation division, Quail Forever, is the nation's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 140,000 members and 740 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Since creation in 1982, Pheasants Forever has spent $867 million on 540,000 habitat projects benefiting 18 million acres nationwide.