Home / News / South Dakota Grasslands Coalition wins prestigious NRCS award

South Dakota Grasslands Coalition wins prestigious NRCS award

Agriculture.com Staff 05/02/2007 @ 2:25pm

Managing rangeland and grass species is never as easy as it looks to someone driving down the road. And in the Great Plains, where farmers and ranchers have endured some of the worst droughts since the 1930s, it's even tougher.

But on Wednesday a group that deserves to be called grassroots, the South Dakota Grasslands Coalition, was rewarded for facing those challenges by getting the the highest award for conservation from USDA's Natural Resources conservation Service (NRCS).

Ranchers who run the 100-plus-member group gathered at the state capitol in Pierre, South Dakota, to receive the 2007 Excellence in Conservation Award from NRCS Chief Arlen Lancaster, South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Bill Even and NRCS State Conservationist Janet Oertly.

Lancaster later told Agriculture Online in a telephone interview that the group does a lot to promote grassland conservation with field days on ranches that highlight the latest methods of managing grazing rotation, controlling weeds and maintaining grasses. Altogether it has held more than 35 tours and workshops throughout the state. And its outreach has helped NRCS and others write conservation plans covering more than 1.8 million acres.

But one of the things that sets the group apart is its effort to promote conservation to consumers, he said.

"They've educated the public about the importance of grassland and conservation," Lancaster said.

For example, the Coalition each year holds a two-day event called SD Rangeland Days for junior and senior high school students.

It has produced a video highlighting the benefits of good grazing management and it is producing a booklet on grassland management called, "Greener Pastures."

"One of my goals for the award is really for the public to recognize some of the benefits it's obtaining through conservation practices," Lancaster said.

And ranchers, too, have benefited.

"When you've implemented good conservation practices on these lands, you're able to sort of mitigate the effects of drought," Lancaster said.

Managing rangeland and grass species is never as easy as it looks to someone driving down the road. And in the Great Plains, where farmers and ranchers have endured some of the worst droughts since the 1930s, it's even tougher.

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