Welcome to South Dakota Rangelands
Rangelands are the dominant ecosystem of the Northern Great Plains, but many forces threaten the productivity and ecological integrity of these rangelands and the human communities that rely on them. Rangelands of the NGP, including those in South Dakota have been rated among the most threatened in the world. Threats include unsustainable grazing practices, damaging fire regimes, invasive plants, destructive recreational activities and conversion to cropping or development. Against a backdrop of changing values and controversies over land use, greater understanding of innovative, sustainable rangeland management practices is urgently needed. An important tool to meet this challenge is science-based, easily accessible, and user-friendly information.
Over 50% of the land in South Dakota can be classified as rangeland or pastureland (USDA 2004). Rangelands and pasturelands are vital to South Dakota animal agriculture because nearly all beef cows, yearlings, and growing cattle spend some or all of their life on rangeland or pastureland as do most ewes and their lambs.
The importance of rangelands and pasturelands to South Dakota agriculture is clearly evident: of the 48.6 million acres in South Dakota, over 25 million acres are rangeland and pastureland. In 2005, rangelands and pasturelands supported (at least part time) most of the 1,720,000 cows and heifers that calved that year and their calves and most of the 285,000 breeding sheep. Approximately 60% of all SD farms/ranches manage rangeland and pastureland.