Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says easements on private land are an efficient way to provide conservation in critical habitat, while helping ranchers stay in business. During his State of the Birds address earlier this week, Salazar again expressed support for the proposed Dakota Grasslands Conservation Area, which seeks to buy easements on 2 million acres of native grassland in the Prairie Pothole Region. The Secretary met with Ducks Unlimited, ranchers and other conservation leaders in South Dakota to talk about the initiative.
"By using easements, instead of acquiring land outright, we are getting more conservation bang for our buck and ensuring the continuation of the ranching heritage on a working landscape," Salazar said.
The Dakota Grasslands Conservation Area is seen as a model for conserving working agricultural landscapes, while benefiting wildlife and its habitats. DU, which today actively works with landowners in the "Duck Factory" to protect grass and wetland nesting habitat, has committed $50 million to the increased effort to purchase more easements.
"The grass and wetlands of the Prairie Pothole Region are a top priority for DU," said Jim Ringelman, DU director of conservation for the Dakotas and Montana' who met with Salazar last week. "Conservation easements are one of our best tools for conserving this important habitat."
Salazar told the Sioux Falls, S.D. Argus Leader there are few places as rich and diverse in opportunities as the Dakotas. "And the Dakota Grassland Conservation Area will be an example of what conservation can be in the 21st-century; how we can conserve wildlife and wildlife habitat while ensuring the future of rural Dakota," he said.
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Prairie Pothole Region