In 2020, the South Dakota Legislature approved the South Dakota Habitat Stamp as a way to generate revenue for the development of wildlife habitat on public land and waters, or to provide public access to private land. The stamp, which went into effect July 1, 2020, is required for anyone 18 years-of-age or older who purchases or applies for a hunting, fishing or furbearer license. The annual fee for the stamp is $10 for residents and $25 for nonresidents. The money raised from the habitat stamp will be administered through South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (SD GFP).
One of the first programs to benefit from the new revenue stream will be the resumption of land enrollments into the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) in the James River watershed. CREP is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and is a federal-state partnership between the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the SD GFP. The primary goals of CREP are to improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, provide flood control and to enhance wildlife habitat through the establishment of vegetative cover that is open to public hunting and fishing access. CREP participants agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production by establishing perennial grassland vegetation, restoring wetlands and allowing public hunting and fishing access. In return, the participant receives rental payments and cost-share assistance from both FSA and SD GFP for a 10-year to 15-year contract. The combination of the FSA and GFP payments is higher than if you just enrolled your land in CRP.
With a goal of 100,000 enrolled acres, the James River CREP opened in the fall of 2009. Over 82,000 acres were enrolled before sign-ups were suspended in February 2014. Increasing rental rates during that time limited the amount of land that could be enrolled with the $3 million/year that the SD GFP had available for the program. With funding from the new habitat stamp, the James River CREP was reopened in January 2021 with the hope of realizing the 100,000 acre target.
Approved CRP practices that are eligible for CREP include:
- CP2, Establishment of Native Grasses
- CP4D, Permanent Wildlife Habitat
- CP21, Filter Strips
- CP23, Wetland Restoration
- CP23A, Wetland Restoration, Non-Floodplain
- CP29, Marginal Pastureland Wildlife Habitat Buffer
- CP30, Marginal Pastureland Wetland Buffer
- CP37, Duck Nesting Habitat
The state of South Dakota is also currently working with the USDA to create a new CREP project for the Big Sioux River watershed. It will be modeled after the existing James River program with a target of 25,000 acres.
Along with providing public hunting and fishing access to private lands (CREP), money from the habitat stamp will benefit South Dakota through other projects in the future (see Habitat Stamp FAQs under additional resources). As someone who grew up along the Big Sioux River and has worked on the James River, it is encouraging to see a dedicated funding source for conservation in South Dakota. Along with hunters and anglers, anyone who enjoys the outdoors (photographers, birders, canoers and kayakers, etc.) may benefit from projects funded through the purchase of a South Dakota Habitat Stamp. You can purchase a stand-alone habitat stamp anywhere fishing and hunting licenses are sold, or purchase one by visiting the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks website and click on “Purchase License” under the “Licenses” tab.
If you are a landowner or producer who would like to enroll some of your land into the James River Watershed CREP, contact a habitat advisor that covers the county your land is located in (Figure 1).
- Habitat Stamps FAQ, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.
- Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program: Program Overview, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.