BROOKINGS, S.D. – When Sandy Smart was growing up, his family would take road trips from his native Wisconsin to his dad’s home state of California. He remembers driving through South Dakota on Interstate 90, and being awed once the landscape started to open, especially near the Missouri River divide.
Years later, at graduate school in Nebraska, Smart visited the Sandhills and “fell in love with the prairie” all over again.
“Now it’s really cool I get to live and work in the state I remember making those drives through,” said Smart, SDSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Senior Program Leader.
That love of rangelands has shone through his entire career as a researcher, professor, SDSU Extension program leader, and volunteer with professional organizations like the Society for Range Management. In recognition of those efforts, the Society for Range Management recently named Smart a 2023 Fellow Award winner.
“For the tremendous contributions to the science and management of rangeland ecosystems he has made, it is with great honor the Society for Range Management recognized Dr. Smart with the 2023 Fellow Award,” the society wrote in its announcement.
According to the Society for Range Management, the title of Fellow is conferred upon its members in recognition of exceptional service to the society and its programs. “This high honor is granted in the belief that special recognition should be given for exceptional and dedicated service to the Society,” said the Society for Range Management.
Smart has been a member of the Society for Range Management for 26 years. In that time, he has served as South Dakota section president, chair of the program accreditation committee, chair of the nominating committee, and as an associate editor for the Rangeland Ecology & Management publication.
“Dr. Smart is extremely deserving of this honor. While being recognized as a fellow acknowledges his expertise and commitment to the discipline, it also communicates the important role that the society and its programs play in the advancement of the science in support of range management,” said Karla Trautman, SDSU Extension Director. “Dr. Smart’s leadership to the discipline and the society have been significant over time and I’m thrilled that he is being recognized and honored by the society for these contributions through this designation as Fellow.”
“Sandy can be counted on to do an exemplary job no matter the situation and do it with a smile and endless energy and enthusiasm,” the Society for Range Management said.
He looks at his prolific contributions matter-of-factly: “You give back to your professional organization,” he said.
Prior to leading the SDSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources program, Smart spent 20 years teaching and researching range management with SDSU and has an extensive background in rangeland ecology, grazing management, grassland fire, forage seedling and forage quality testing.
As a professor, Smart also coached teams to compete in university judging contests. University programs can be accredited through the Society for Range Management, and Smart led the effort to achieve accreditation for SDSU about 15 years ago. He then later served on the society’s accreditation committee.
One of the things Smart most appreciates about the Society for Range Management is its emphasis on educating the next generation of rangeland conservationists. The society has programs for all ages: range camps teach elementary-aged children how to identify range plants and wildlife, Rangeland Days offers opportunities for youth aged 8 to 18 to study plants and habitat, and university judging contests give college students a chance to hone their range management knowledge.
“We recognize young people are pretty important to our future, and we invest in youth,” Smart said.
For more information, contact Sandy Smart, SDSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Senior Program Leader.