The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s wetland determination backlog continues to decline in South Dakota. Just two years ago the state was faced with a backlog of over 3,800 determination requests, but now is down to 1,529 as of September 1st. Requests have fallen significantly since 2011; regardless, positive progress has been made. The backlog in some counties is only a week out, while others are behind by a year or more. Most of the backlog remains in the northeast part of the state (see picture above).
New Determination Methods
As of July 15, the NRCS in the Prairie Pothole states began using the State Offsite Methods to perform wetland determinations as an effort to make use of new technology to improve accuracy and efficiency in wetland identification. State conservationist Jeff Zimprich said it’s too early to gauge the impact of the changes, but noted that 70-75% of determinations will still require a field visit. A farmer has the right to request a reconsideration during the process if he or she would like a field visit from a wetland expert.
Wetland Mitigation Coming
During the latest State Technical Committee meeting on September 15th, Wayne Smith, a wetland expert with the South Dakota Farm Bureau, officially submitted an agriculture wetland mitigation banking framework to NRCS state conservationist Jeff Zimprich. The project was part of an NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant. A committee made up of agriculture, conservation, and wildlife groups along with NRCS staff worked with Eco Assets Management to create a workable, conservation-minded mitigation banking framework that received accolades from high-ranking NRCS wetland experts. Officials at NRCS headquarters and the Office of General Counsel will now review the framework. Once finalized, the framework will be posted on the NRCS website.
This project was the first of its kind and may end up being utilized in other states. If you are interested in wetland mitigation on agricultural land and/or want more information, contact Brian Top of South Dakota Wetland Partners at (605) 359-5108 or email him at email@example.com