Outdoor America 2020 Issue 3
South Dakota >> Since its 1922 inception, the Izaak Walton League of America has worked to protect our soil, air, woods, waters and wildlife. From the Minnesota Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to the Florida Everglades to the National Elk Refuge near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the League has charted a series of conservation successes during the nearly 100 years of its existence. Much of the credit for this success belongs to the League’s local chapters and state divisions, which create, manage and operate various conservation programs. Their members are the front-line troops in the ongoing battle of natural resource conservation.
As part of this effort, the League’s South Dakota Division has sponsored an annual Wildlife Habitat Award for 67 years. Private landowners submit applications along with an endorsement from their respective local conservation district. The applicant must include a description, history and photos of the activities and conservation practices of their program. Their project needs to address each of the following areas:
- Responsible management that benefits wildlife habitat.
- Strong personal interest in exercising good land stewardship.
- The variety of wildlife that the management practices have benefited.
- Utilization of cost-share programs.
Each year, the South Dakota Division selects up to three applicants to receive the award. Successful applicants receive a custom-made plaque and their nominating conservation district receives a certificate of appreciation.
In cooperation with their conservation district, each applicant designs a program with the best management practices that suit their land and its natural features. Some emphasize wildlife management while others prioritize the filtration strips of land along lakes, rivers and streams if they have flowing or standing water on their property. These dedicated landowners are often ranchers or farmers with an environmental conscience. Their respective projects represent a lifelong conservation commitment. All of the awardees have put in many years of conservation practices by the time their application is submitted.
In 2019, Terry Hulm of Pennington County, Scott and Stacie Lindgren of Clark County and the McCook Lake Chapter of IWLA in Union County received recognition under this program. The respective properties of each of the awardees utilized some or all of the various conservation practices, including filtration protection strips, chemical-free maintenance, wildlife habitat plantings, sustainable agricultural practices, aquaculture and youth hunting opportunities. They have dedicated their lives to conserving America’s natural resources and environment.
State Director Lanny Thomas of the Beadle County Chapter has organized and reviewed the Wildlife Habitat Award program for several years. His recommendations help the state division decide each year’s awardees. According to Thomas, “Those who receive this award are natural conservationists to begin with. The award does not serve to inspire them but recognizes what they have already committed themselves to.”
Ongoing community outreach programs such as this one by the South Dakota Division are practiced around the country by local chapters and state divisions. Some programs involve oversight, other projects are more hands on, but they all add up to a better environment for us, our children and future generations.