Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of South Dakota that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
Preservation of Blood Run National Historic Landmark and conservation of the state's native grasslands are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the state of South Dakota, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of South Dakota and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in South Dakota highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Blood Run National Historic Landmark
Blood Run National Historic Landmark, one of the oldest sites of long-term human habitation in North America, is a culturally significant area to both South Dakota and Iowa. The landmark offers residents of Sioux Falls—South Dakota's most populous city—important outdoor-recreation opportunities.
Located a few miles southeast of the city along Big Sioux River are 300 acres of undeveloped native-forest habitat adjacent to the landmark that the state wants to acquire. The state considers acquiring and protecting the land around the site critical because of the owner's circumstances and the interest of commercial developers. The National Park Service identified the landmark in 2000 as a worthy national park area.
Acquiring the land and designating a park would advance AGO goals by conserving a historic, undeveloped landscape and providing urban residents with nearby outdoor recreation opportunities.
The Dakota Grasslands Conservation Area's millions of depressional wetlands constitute one of the world's richest wetland systems. These “prairie potholes” and surrounding grasslands are highly productive and support a great diversity of bird life. Once vast grassland, the Prairie Pothole Region is now dominated by cropland. But millions of wetlands and large tracts of native prairie remain. The Prairie Pothole Region is one of the most altered—yet also most important—migratory-bird habitats in the Western Hemisphere. It is the backbone of North America's “duck factory” and critical habitat for many wetland- and grassland-dependent migratory birds.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will seek to acquire easements from willing sellers on some two million acres of native-prairie habitat to benefit wildlife and support traditional economic activities, specifically livestock production. The proposal will expand habitat conservation that the National Wildlife Refuge System already provides through several wildlife refuges and wetland-management districts in the area.
This project joins the federal government with agricultural communities and other partners in the Dakotas to conserve wildlife and its habitat while ensuring continuation of the regions' agricultural heritage.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In South Dakota, for example, the Department could provide financial support to acquire a 300-acre section of land for Blood Run National Historic Landmark. It could also support the use of conservation easements to protect grassland habitat and associated wetlands.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus – including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.