BISMARCK, ND – Nov. 3, 2023 – On Nov.2, as part of the agency's investment in climate-smart agriculture practices, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded Ducks Unlimited (DU) nearly $52 million to support projects with farmers, ranchers and landowners. Of that amount, $25 million will support the South Dakota Grasslands Initiative.
Operating under the USDA's Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), DU and RCPP partners will work with South Dakota producers to restore over 25,000 acres of grassland over five years. The goal is to incentivize a voluntary, partnership-driven approach to conservation on working agricultural lands by combining environmentally beneficial practices with new revenue streams for farmers and ranchers.
“The RCPP allows the project partners to promote a unique incentive program for restoring grasslands and restoring soils, specifically for working lands. So, for example, one practice we’d like to promote is rotational grazing to manage and retain grasslands and habitat,” said Bruce Toay, DU’s manager of conservation programs in South Dakota. “Thanks to the USDA's funding, we can provide attractive incentives for conservation practices that are desired by our cooperating farmers and ranchers. The result is a positive impact on the landscape, more sustainable ag production, and a boost to their bottom line.”
Other organizations like the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, South Dakota Grassland Coalition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, and Audubon Great Plains are partnering on the initiative.

The projects will increase carbon sequestration in soils, reduce nitrogen loss, and help capture atmospheric carbon, as well as aid flood water storage, reduce the effects of erosion, and increase migratory waterfowl biodiversity.

"This isn't just an investment in habitat or agriculture, it's a down payment on the long-term sustainability of our land, wildlife and natural resources," said DU Chief Conservation Officer Dr. Karen Waldrop. "From helping to sequester carbon and improve soil health to preventing erosion and filtering and storing water, each of these projects offers an immense amount of value to our environment that far exceeds the baitat benefits alone. These grants will help DU magnify that impact on a larger scale."
For a full list of the projects receiving RCPP funding, visit the USDA’s website, here
Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing wetlands, grasslands and other waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has restored or protected more than 16 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science, DU’s projects benefit waterfowl, wildlife and people in all 50 states. DU is growing its mission through a historic $3 billion Conservation For A Continent capital campaign. Learn more at

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