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Western South Dakota Stream Guide now available for landowners, managers

BROOKINGS, S.D. – South Dakota may be more known for its croplands and “oceans of grass,” as the grasslands are known, but a vital water source wends through the land as well: streams. Understanding how to manage those streams is crucial for landowners and managers. That’s where a new manual, “Understanding Western South Dakota Prairie Streams” – or the Stream Guide – comes in. 

The Stream Guide is published through a partnership of South Dakota State University Extension, the Nature Conservancy, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service and is now available as a free digital download. 

The Stream Guide describes four common stream types found in the prairie habitats of western South Dakota, provides instructions on assessing stream type and condition, and explains management options to restore or protect streams in working rangelands. 

To make the guide user-friendly for landowners or managers who want to improve their transition areas between drier uplands and wet channels (known as riparian corridors), much of the technical information has been separated into appendices that provide additional detail about the data and methods. 

“The Stream Guide is an excellent example of the partnerships we have across South Dakota between SDSU Extension, federal agencies, and non-profits,” said Krista Ehlert, SDSU Extension Range Specialist, who was involved in the creation of the Stream Guide. “The Stream Guide provides land managers with information about an important resource in western South Dakota – prairie streams – and provides them with actionable information to conserve and improve riparian areas on the landscape.”

She said there are four primary goals to the Stream Guide. The first is to educate readers on why prairie stream and riparian health are important, followed by helping readers identify the type of streams in their area and assess their health and functionality. Other goals are to provide recommendations for management according to stream type and condition, with a focus on adaptive management; and to inspire readers about the potential to improve stream and riparian health in western South Dakota.

There are also a variety of stories scattered throughout the guide from stewards and land managers across western South Dakota to illustrate some of the real-life examples of those working to restore, heal, and improve prairie streams. Individuals share lessons learned, opportunities, challenges, and thoughts on how partners can work together to restore stream systems one ranch at a time. 

For a copy of the Stream Guide, visit our Understanding Prairie Streams page. You can also contact Lori Brown, TNC Stream Ecologist, at or Mitch Faulkner, NRCS Rangeland Specialist, at 

For more information, contact Krista Ehlert, SDSU Extension Range Specialist.