other By: Pheasants Forever | January, 21
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem recently announced positive news for landowners, farmers, and upland hunters by enacting full enrollment of the state’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) up to 100,000 acres in 2021. The move, touted by Pheasants Forever as a game-changer for the outdoor community, routes new habitat stamp funding from hunting and fishing license sales to add another 25K acres of public access and critical habitat in “The Pheasant Capital.”
“Since its inception in 2010, James River CREP has been one of the most successful private land conservation and public access programs in the country,” said Matt Morlock, state coordinator for Pheasants Forever in South Dakota. “Under Governor Noem’s leadership, we are thrilled to see a final push for maximum CREP acreage enrollment. Likewise, the habitat stamp bill, which Pheasants Forever was a major proponent of, is being put to great use. Our biologist team stands ready to help interested landowners navigate the CREP signup process to utilize one of the country’s most popular private-public partnerships.”
South Dakota’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program has similar ties to other CREP initiatives throughout the country – the program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency and targets specific state or nationally significant conservation concerns, and federal funds are supplemented with non-federal funds to address those concerns. In South Dakota specifically, fees paid by sportsmen add 31 percent to the landowner stipend received from the federal government. In return, landowners agree to a 10 to 15-year contract with public access rights for hunting and fishing as one of the program’s unique benefits.
“The creation of the habitat stamp has allowed South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to move towards full enrollment of the James River CREP by allocating a portion of those funds to reach the maximum enrollment of 100,000 acres,” said Mark Norton, South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Hunting Access and Farm Bill Coordinator. “We are excited to work with landowners to fully enroll the James River CREP; this program is a phenomenal opportunity for farmers, wildlife, and hunters.”
Since the early stages of the CREP, South Dakota has sat at 75,000 acres enrolled, or three-fourths of the maximum 100,000-acre allotment. Thanks to support from legislators and the outdoor community in 2020, a new funding solution was created.
The 2020 legislative session enacted the state’s first habitat stamp which requires individuals applying for a hunting, fishing, or furbearer license in South Dakota to first obtain a hunting stamp - $10 for residents and $25 for nonresidents - from the Game, Fish, and Parks Department. The estimated $5.7 million in revenue generated from the new stamp was earmarked for habitat development on public lands and waters and to create public access on private lands. The outdoor community is now witnessing the positive outcomes of the new legislation as the funding works to fulfill maximum enrollment of James River CREP.
A lucrative program for landowners and rewarding opportunities for sportsmen, hunters and anglers can now look forward to more South Dakota access opportunities in 2021 and beyond.