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DU Member Neil Bien Wins a National Wetlands Award


DU Member Neil Bien Wins a National Wetlands Award

VEBLEN, S.D., May 25, 2005 – Managing a 5,000-acre working cattle ranch might make you think that there wouldn’t be time to think about conservation, but for Neil Bien, living off the land without destroying the natural wetlands and grasslands is what he does every day. With Bien, conservation comes from his heart.

“When you occupy the land and live on it everyday, you are more likely to care for it and keep the land healthy,” said Bien. “We are working ranchers, not hobby landowners, not hobby farmers. Yet, we are still able to do the conservation projects. It’s a win-win situation. We enjoy the wildlife, hunting and fishing, and with healthy land you can have both.”

Bien has been a DU member for more than 30 years. He restored 15 wetlands, totaling 150 acres, and preserved 100 natural wetlands on his

DU Member Neil Bien Wins a National Wetlands Award

ranch. On May 18 in Washington, D.C., Bien was recognized for his efforts.

He is one of four Ducks Unlimited members, together with three other wetlands educators, scientists and conservationists, who received a 2005 National Wetlands Award from the Environmental Law Institute, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, USDA Forest Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Federal Highway Administration and NOAA Fisheries.

Located in the northeast corner of South Dakota in the Prairie Coteau Hills, the Bien ranch is situated in the heart of the U.S. Prairie Pothole Region – Ducks Unlimited’s highest priority landscape. 

“The grasslands and wetlands in this region make it one of the most productive duck breeding areas in the world,” said Jim Ringelman, DU’s director of conservation programs for the prairies. “Wetlands provide the foods needed by breeding ducks, and adjacent grasslands offer plenty of secure nesting habitat. We’re just grateful to have been able to work with Neil and his family. They are living proof that working ranches and ducks can co-exist and flourish together.”

Bien’s log home is on the original site of his great grandmother’s sod dug-out she and his grandfather built on the prairie when they arrived in 1887 from Norway. He grew up in a standard frame house and built his log home on the same spot more than 30 years ago. His grandfather homesteaded 160 acres which is still part of his family’s ranch. Only Bien family members have lived on the ranch.

He believes in keeping as much of the precipitation that falls on the land staying on the ranch. That’s why he got involved with one Ducks Unlimited project. Called Partners for Wildlife, funding from DU and various sources helped build small dams to improve flood control and provide water for wildlife and livestock.

He also schedules the pasture grazing for his 325 cows and the 300 new calves recently born. Rotating the pastures keeps the native prairie grasses healthy. DU provided funding for cross fencing to divide and rotate the cattle. Moving the cattle benefits wildlife on his ranch by providing more cover.

“We want to enhance the land for its value for livestock and wildlife,” said Bien. “The wetlands have three purposes: habitat for waterfowl, water for livestock and cover for wildlife.”

Bien taught school for 16 years while ranching on the side. During the last 20 years, he and his family tripled the size of the ranch. He has more than 1,100 acres, seeded back to grasses, enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.

Bien served on several state commissions, including the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks commission and the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts.
Contact: Vicki Tyler
(901) 758-3859
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands − nature’s most productive ecosystem − and continues to lose more than 100,000 wetland acres each year.


Related:  homenational news

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