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  • SD Locally Led

Custer County Conservation District's Forest Thinning Program Promotes Resilient Future



The Custer County Conservation District in South Dakota is taking steps to improve forest resiliency through its successful forest thinning program. The program, funded through cost-share grants awarded by the South Dakota Conservation Commission and as one of South Dakota's Conservation Implementation Strategy (CIS) projects, works with local landowners and partners to improve forest resiliency, thinning, and fuels treatment, resulting in a healthier environment overall.


The South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts has released a new video, "Forest Thinning for a Resilient Future," highlighting the collaborative efforts of local stakeholders and partners involved in the program. Currently, the program has completed projects on approximately 500 acres of private land with 24 landowners through the Conservation Commission grants, and an additional 100 acres have been funded by the CIS grant in the last two years.


The Custer Conservation District has also partnered with the U.S. Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire, and the South Dakota Division of Resource Conservation and Forestry to make their practices more effective across larger landscapes.


The district's approach to forest management and resiliency is unique as approximately 50% of Custer County's land is public land versus private, creating a need for a landscape approach to forest management. The district's programs on the eastern side of the county focus on working with ranchers to improve their grazing programs and protect riparian areas.


Dave Thom, Chairman of the Custer County Conservation District Board of Supervisors, emphasizes the importance of working with landowners, stating, "We realized that it's important to work with our landowners because these disturbances in the ponderosa pine forest occur across whole landscapes. 100 acres a year does not make a lot of difference in the grand scheme, but it makes a difference to that landowner."


The district also encourages private landowners to manage their land and do thinning on their land adjacent to national forest land to reduce the incidence of running crown fires, which are the most destructive when it comes to fire damage to private property.


In addition to the forest thinning program, the Custer County Conservation District offers workshops that educate landowners on forest practices, forest ecology, and fire prevention. Visit their website to learn more about the workshops and upcoming events.


If you're interested in learning more about South Dakota's CIS projects, please visit the USDA-NRCS website.


If you would like to view a map of current CIS projects around the state, you can do so by clicking here.


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