South Dakota Wildlife Action Plan

By the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

The key to healthy people and healthy wildlife is habitat – clean air and water, healthy and diverse landscapes, and other features that help wildlife thrive. South Dakota’s wildlife action plan emphasizes habitat that will benefit all wildlife in the state while addressing the needs of 90 animal species of conservation concern. The plan attempts to identify and locate South Dakota’s essential habitats, identify the habitats that have changed since the state was settled, determine which animal species need special attention to ensure their long-term survival, and develop ways for the state to be more proactive in wildlife and habitat management.

Wildlife Highlights

Grasslands and prairie pothole wetlands in eastern South Dakota support some of the highest concentrations of breeding waterfowl and other wetland birds in North America. Though bisected by four dams, there are still places along the Missouri River where one can experience the wide and meandering “Big Muddy,” as well as some of its native wildlife, including paddlefish and bald eagles. The Black Hills’ forests, streams and grasslands support many species found in few other places in the state, such as the American dipper, Townsend’s big-eared bat, and the longnose sucker.

Primary Challenges to Conserving Wildlife in South Dakota

South Dakota’s Wildlife Action Plan identified several key challenges to wildlife and habitats. Land has been converted for other uses throughout the state. Some fish and wildlife species have general habitat needs and can adapt to such changes. Others have specific requirements, and those species have suffered from loss or degradation of habitat and impacts from the decline of traditional impacts, such as fire or grazing, which help to keep certain habitats healthy. For example, tallgrass prairie benefits greatly from fire.

Species that are not native to the state have been intentionally or accidentally introduced, often with disastrous consequences. Sylvatic plague was recently found in black-tailed prairie dog colonies, and black-footed ferrets in southwestern South Dakota are being closely watched for the impacts of this exotic disease. The Missouri River dams changed much of it from a diverse, meandering river to a series of reservoirs, jeopardizing the future of such species as the pallid sturgeon, piping plover and interior least tern.

Working Together for South Dakota’s Wildlife

From start to finish, South Dakota incorporated public involvement as part of the planning process. Forty-eight invitations to join the Advisory Team were extended to universities, government entities, and tribes. Other opportunities included an interactive website, an open invitation for anyone to join the Advisory Team, regional town meetings held in four of the state’s largest cities to gain insight on problems and strategies early in the planning process, presentations to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission and staff, and specific invitations to universities, tribes, and other government entities to meet early in the process in order to incorporate mutually beneficial strategies and philosophies,  which resulted in seven specific meetings. There was also a 30-day public comment period on the draft plan and an opportunity to participate in the “Wildlife Values in the West 2004” survey to help the state understand how South Dakotans may react to the wildlife policies that will be used to implement South Dakota’s Wildlife Action Plan.


The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, promotes sound management and conservation, and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.

Contribute to LandScope

Want to join, work with us or simply find out more? Learn how you can get involved.


Copyright © 2024 NatureServe. All Rights Reserved.