Ducks Unlimited honored South Dakota donors and Greenwings who contributed to the Rescue Our Wetlands campaign with a recognition cairn at Swan Lake Game Production Area (GPA). The dedication site rests on an original homestead on a hill overlooking Swan Lake.
Rescue Our Wetlands was the most ambitious campaign in DU history. During the campaign, which ended in December, DU raised $2.34 billion and conserved more than 2.2 million acres.
"This project exemplifies the unique relationships DU has developed with our conservation partners and major donors that help fund these projects," said Terry Kostinec, DU director of development for South Dakota. "The view from the dedication site is sure to inspire future conservationists."
The project site is 30 miles northwest of Watertown S.D., in Clark County. Initially called the Engstrom property, the tract is 240 acres of wetlands and grasslands on the south side of Swan Lake. DU purchased the property in 2012 as part of DU’s Revolving Habitat Program. It is adjacent to two public areas, one owned by South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (SDGFP) and the other by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"Swan Lake is in the Prairie Coteau region of South Dakota, a region significant to breeding waterfowl and with a strong waterfowl hunting heritage," said Bruce Toay, DU’s manager of conservation programs in South Dakota. "The property improves habitat for waterfowl and expands public access to hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation."
DU partnered with the Izaak Walton League and Grass Lake Conservation Club to secure North American Wetlands Conservation Act funding to restore three small wetlands on the property. The restored wetlands will reduce runoff and sedimentation into the adjacent Swan Lake. The South Dakota Habitat Conservation Fund and DU partnered to restore 80 acres of uplands on the property to a diverse mix of native grasses and forbs.
In 2016 DU transferred ownership of the Engstrom property to the SDGFP for management and to incorporate into the 1,200-acre Swan Lake GPA. The wetland and grassland restorations will provide excellent habitat for waterfowl, pheasants, deer, pollinators and other insects. The GPA is open to public hunting and other outdoor recreation.