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U.S. Fish & Wildlife Approves Dakota Grassland Conservation Area

Your turn, Congress!

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has approved a plan to create the Dakota Grassland Conservation Area, a really good idea that would protect nearly two million acres of land in the eastern Dakotas and protect landowner rights:

In contrast with some other conservation easement programs, it still would allow for some continued agricultural use.

Wetlands could be farmed if naturally dried, and grazing and haying would be allowed under most circumstances.

But commercial development on the land would be restricted. Roads, pipelines, wind farms and other projects requiring an easement would be approved in some cases. The landowner would retain property rights, and the land would stay on the local tax rolls, though the easement would transfer with a land sale.

"It capitalizes on these mutual interests that particularly ranchers have with grassland and water conservation," said Kurt Forman, the private lands coordinator at the Fish and Wildlife office in Brookings [Cody Winchester, "Grassland Protection Plan Gets Initial Federal OK," that Sioux Falls paper, 2011.09.10].

For those of you who think the Dakota Grassland Conservation Area is some nefarious federal land grab, remember: this program will be totally voluntary. Over 800 eastern Dakota landowners have already applied for conservation easements, including easements that would come up in the DGCA. Perhaps those landowners noticed the protection against pipelines and see a chance to protect themselves from things like the TransCanada Keystone pipeline, easements for which were not at all voluntary.

The cost of this conservation effort would be split between conservation groups like Ducks Unlimited and the federal government... assuming Congress will write the check. And when this project serves the interests of agriculture, tourism, and landowners by protecting water quality and wildlife, why would South Dakota's Congressional delegation say no? Kristi, John, Tim, let's make the Dakota Grassland Conservation Area happen!

One Comment

  1. larry kurtz 2011.09.13

    Good eye, Number 1. Make it so.

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