USDA grant awarded to establish an agriculture wetland mitigation bank in South Dakota

USDA grant awarded to establish an agriculture wetland mitigation bank in South Dakota

South Dakota Farm Bureau (SDFB), has been awarded a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant of nearly $1 million to establish an agriculture wetland mitigation bank in South Dakota. 

 

SDFB, along with South Dakota Corn Growers (SDCGA), South Dakota Soybean Association (SDSA) and Dakota Wetland Partners, LLC, have collaborated to develop the South Dakota Wetland Exchange. Dakota Wetland Partners will be the managers of the South Dakota Wetland Exchange, which will establish wetland mitigation banks in the state, with emphasis within the Prairie Pothole region. The partner organizations have been working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) over the past two years to develop a mitigation-banking framework.

 

“The USDA grant will help provide funding to a critically-needed, first-ever ag wetlands mitigation bank in South Dakota,” said Keith Alverson, president of SDCGA.

 

The Wetland Mitigation Banking Grant Program, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, helps states, local governments or qualified partners like Dakota Wetland Partners, LLC, develop wetland mitigation banks that restore, create, or enhance wetland ecosystems, generating credits in one place to compensate for what is often a highly disturbed wetland within cropland.

 

“Wetlands are vital and dynamic ecosystems that provide many important functions including groundwater recharge and prime wildlife habitat,” said NRCS state conservationist Jeff Zimprich. “While it is important that the agricultural community continues to protect the truly unique landscape of this wetland ecosystem, providing South Dakota farmers and ranchers additional options to maintain their eligibility for USDA programs and keep their working lands working is a win for all.”

Banked wetland credits can be purchased to mitigate agricultural impacts or losses of wetlands, broadening the conservation options available to farmers and ranchers so they can maintain eligibility for USDA programs.

“Historically there have been very few wetland mitigation banks or credits available to specifically address the needs of agriculture,” said Scott VanderWal, SDFB president. “It was important to the collaborating organizations to make sure South Dakota farmers and ranchers had options to maintain compliance with the law and keep their operations profitable.”

The lands in wetland mitigation banks established through this program will be protected by easements held by SDFB. The long-term management of the mitigated wetlands will be provided by the Beadle County Conservation District and other conservation district partners.

 

“The partners involved are dedicated to providing farmers a chance to offset the impacts of modifying those temporary or seasonal isolated wetlands found within crop fields that can often affect the overall farming operation,” said Brian Top, Dakota Wetland Partners, LLC. “Wetland mitigation banking is an opportunity for producers to utilize their land for its highest value and at the same time create high-quality wetlands.”

 

Onsite mitigation of wetland impacts can be used by farmers and ranchers, but it isn’t always the best option. This off-site mitigation offers another alternative to purchase credits for the modification of an existing agricultural wetland. The cost of mitigation credits is negotiated between the wetland mitigation bank manager and the buyer. USDA NRCS will not be involved in those transactions.

“SDSA is excited about the possibilities wetland mitigation banking offers South Dakota producers to become more efficient while remaining committed to sustainable farming practices and environmental stewardship,” said Jerry Schmitz,“ SDSA president.

To learn more about wetland mitigation banking and the South Dakota Wetland Exchange, contact Dakota Wetland Partners at sdwetlandprogram@gmail.com or (605) 809-7251.