Skip to Content
South Dakota:
Under God, the People Rule

Enhancing Habitat

Pheasant hunting season is a major economic engine for South Dakota and a significant contributor to tourism, our second largest industry. Each year, 81,000 non-resident hunters flock to our state for hunting season and spend more than $156 million in our restaurants, hotels, gift shops, and gas stations. That money makes a real difference for families and small businesses.

If we’re committed to this heritage and want to conserve our outdoor culture, we need to proactively protect habitat. In recent years, pheasant numbers have dropped and habitat lands have diminished, largely because of fewer Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres and increased predator populations. With a history of over 100 years of pheasant hunting in South Dakota, we must now be intentional about sustaining our wildlands and grasslands to ensure the second century of pheasant hunting is just as successful as the first.

My Second Century Initiative is a strategy to increase resources to grow habitat in South Dakota. Through a combination of state funding and private donations, we have enrolled thousands of marginal acres in our Working Lands Habitat Program. We are working with ag producers to provide them with an alternative to cash flow marginal acres and make ends meet by converting those acres into habitat. What’s more, we continue to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for habitat through the expanded Hunt for Habitat program.

In 2019, we launched the Nest Predator Bounty Program to increase trapping of predators that kill our pheasants. Trapping predators during nesting season has been practiced in South Dakota for decades. My family taught me that trapping is central to wildlife management, conservation, and maintaining our outdoor traditions for the next generation. In the program’s first three years, we removed more than 134,000 nest predators. In 2021, 29% of the participants were under the age of 18, meaning the program is encouraging our kids to get outside - away from the Xbox and out with the tackle box.

Habitat is a collaborative effort that takes support from landowners, producers, sportsmen and conservation groups, outdoor enthusiasts, and many more. Together, all these initiatives work to improve habitat in South Dakota.

As South Dakota’s Sportsman in Chief, I’m thrilled to see habitat making headlines and generating discussion around the dinner table. My Second Century Initiative is about introducing kids to the adventure of the outdoors and conserving our outdoor culture for the next generation. Let’s work together to enhance habitat and strengthen our outdoor traditions for another hundred years.