DU guiding landscape-level water management

By Bruce Toay, Manager of Conservation Programs for South Dakota
Most people aren’t going to soon forget 2019. Starting with exceptional snowfall and continuing with record-setting rainfall throughout the year, South Dakota likely had more water on the landscape state-wide than ever before. From a duck’s perspective, life was good and production was excellent. However, for many people, the water proved challenging. Infrastructure was damaged, crops went unplanted and properties were submerged. Conservation was difficult as soils were too wet to plant grasses, dirt was too wet to move, and cropping and grazing plans had to be modified on the fly.

Read all the details in the 2020 South Dakota state report

High water prompts many to seek short-term solutions to rapidly shed water off the landscape. On the bright side, big challenges lead to big opportunities and Ducks Unlimited remains on the forefront of the discussion around landscape-level management of water, using a working-lands approach to conservation. DU works with landowners to develop sustainable, profitable and eco-friendly agricultural practices. Not only do our projects fill the skies with waterfowl, they also improve water quality, help prevent excessive runoff that can cause flooding and balance precipitation extremes.

In 2019, we partnered with federal and state agencies, non-government conservation organizations, corporations and private donors to deliver more than 62,000 acres conserved and spent more than $14 million in our state. We permanently protected 50,983 acres with conservation easements, restored and enhanced 9,342 acres of habitat and secured 1,983 acres into our Revolving Habitat Program. Our agronomist and biologists provided on-site technical assistance to farmers and ranchers, improving more than 6,500 acres of habitat.

Our partnerships and habitat delivery start with volunteers, memberships and donations. I am continually amazed and humbled by the hard work and dedication our volunteers demonstrate and their ability to raise money and awareness to further Ducks Unlimited’s mission. These are folks who find time out of their busy schedules to set up banquets, solicit raffle donations, develop relationships with partners, major donors and sponsors, and advocate for conservation at a moment’s notice. Volunteers are truly the backbone of Ducks Unlimited. Thank you for what you do!