South Dakota adds acres to USDA’s wetlands reserve program


HURON, S.D. – South Dakota has enrolled 8,218 new acres in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) during the last four years. To date, more than two million acres have been enrolled in WRP, nationally, helping exceed the Federal government’s 3-year goal of increasing the number and size of America’s wetlands.

Administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the WRP provides eligible landowners the technical and financial assistance they need to address wetland, wildlife habitat, soil, water and related natural resource concerns. It is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their property through a 30-year or permanent easement, or a restoration cost-share agreement.

“Thanks to the stewardship of our farmers and ranchers, people here in South Dakota and across the nation enjoy the benefits of restored wetlands,” said Janet Oertly, State Conservationist with the NRCS. “I personally thank everyone here in South Dakota whose efforts contributed to this national conservation milestone.”

The majority of wetlands enrolled in the WRP in South Dakota are prairie potholes, termed such due to their “pothole” appearance when viewing the region from a landscape perspective. These pothole wetlands provide critical habitat for migratory waterfowl throughout their breeding, nesting and brood rearing cycles.

South Dakota landowners have enrolled more than 33,000 acres in WRP since the program was introduced in 1996. South Dakota was the first in the nation to enroll Tribal land in the program. In 2005, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe enrolled two parcels of land totaling about 75 acres along the Big Sioux River. WRP easements in South Dakota are mainly found east of the Missouri River and average 100 acres in size.

Wetlands support diverse populations of wildlife, plants and fish, and supply habitat for hundreds of species, including many listed as endangered or threatened. Often called “nature’s sponges,” wetlands help protect water quality by filtering out pollutants and protect towns and cities against floods and storm surges. Wetlands also buffer coastal areas from erosion. They offer aesthetic and recreational opportunities, as well.

Two-thirds of America’s wild ducks are hatched in prairie pothole wetlands. Wetlands in the United States support about 5,000 plant species, 190 species of amphibians, and a third of all native bird species. Half of all migratory birds rely on wetlands and adjacent habitat.

“The NRCS goal is to restore and protect wetland functions and values, and to provide optimum wildlife habitat, on every acre enrolled in the program,” said Sara Thompson, WRP program coordinator.

For additional information on WRP and other conservation programs available in South Dakota visit: or visit your local USDA field office.