Landowners Key to Conserving Prairie Pothole Habitat

BROOKINGS, S.D. – May 28, 2014 – A survey of Midwest landowners will help policymakers find ways to further incentivize conservation of wetlands and grasslands in the Prairie Pothole Region, according to Larry Gigliotti, assistant unit leader for the U.S. Geological Survey’s South Dakota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

The Prairie Pothole Region extends from Montana through the Dakotas and portions of Minnesota and Iowa. The region supports half of North America’s migrating waterfowl as well as a plethora of other bird species. An estimated 85 percent of the nation’s 64 million acres in the Prairie Pothole Region is privately owned.

Through a three-year grant from the Plains and Prairie Potholes Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Gigliotti and an SDSU doctoral student will work with state wildlife agencies to survey landowners in six states—North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Minnesota and Iowa.

“The states have different ecosystems and constraints, and therefore, different threats to habitat,” Giogiotti explained. Each fish and wildlife agency will design and implement customized surveys with input by natural resource experts from the Plains and Prairie Potholes LCC Technical Committee. The western part of the region contains more grasslands, while the eastern section has more wetlands.

“Our role will be to coordinate the effort and analyze the data,” said Gigliotti, noting each state’s help distributing surveys will be essential.

Participants will be asked about their attitudes toward land management and participation in the conservation programs and practices. The goal will be to determine what incentives will motivate landowners to adopt conservation measures, Gigliotti said.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, half of the farmers and ranchers will retire in the next 10 years, so the issue of who will inherit or buy the land will impact conservation efforts in the region, he explained.

As a result, the upcoming generational change represents an opportunity for this research to help the new landowners effectively build conservation of wetlands and grasslands into their operations to benefit wildlife and their bottom line.

The Plains and Prairie Potholes Landscape Conservation Cooperative serves as a bridge between science and natural resources management by facilitating the flow of information among federal, state, nongovernmental, and private organizations and agencies vested in natural resource conservation. The Plains and Prairie Potholes LCC represents more than 30 agencies and organizations across state and international boundaries. The partnership is committed to healthy ecosystems that directly benefit people, fish and wildlife now and in the future.

About South Dakota State University
Founded in 1881, South Dakota State University is the state’s Morrill Act land-grant institution as well as its largest, most comprehensive school of higher education. SDSU confers degrees from six different colleges representing more than 175 majors, minors and specializations. The institution also offers 29 master’s degree programs, 13 Ph.D. and two professional programs.

The work of the university is carried out on a residential campus in Brookings, at sites in Sioux Falls, Pierre and Rapid City, and through Extension offices and Agricultural Experiment Station research sites across the state.

For more information about South Dakota State University:
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Plains and Prairie Potholes LCC

The fundamental objective of the Plains and Prairie Potholes LCC is to increase conservation delivery by reducing scientific uncertainty related to landscape level stressors which are important to our partnership. We will meet this fundamental objective by leveraging partner expertise to promote coordination, dissemination and development of applied science that will support landscape level conservation.

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Rick Nelson
LCC Coordinator