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Conservation Practices Assessment of the Lower Bad River Basin

Investigators
Smart, Alexander
Institutions
South Dakota State University
Start date
2009
End date
2012
Objective
This project investigates the impact of rangeland Best Management Practices (BMPs) on watershed improvement and effectiveness of a 16 year watershed project on producer behavior. The semi-arid watershed is located in the mixed-grass prairie ecoregion of western South Dakota.

The goal of this project is to assess the effectiveness of long-term rangeland BMPs on ecosystem goods and services. Findings from this study will complement other CEAP projects and lead to a synthesis of common principles and lessons learned across grazing lands.

Demonstration, research, and educational projects were conducted in this watershed from 1990 to 2006. Conservation practices tested included the implementation of: 1) prescribed grazing treatments and proper stocking rates to reduce rangeland sheet and rill erosion; and 2) streambank protection, grade stabilization, deferred grazing, and diversion structures to reduce rangeland channel and gulley erosion. Within targeted watersheds, rangeland BMPs were implemented on greater than 95% of the lands. During the project, forty percent improvements in water quality were reported in targeted watersheds.

This project will: 1) assess the potential long-term impacts of one of the most successful rangeland implementation projects in the Great Plains; 2) determine the impacts of range quality and producer perceptions 5 years after the termination of the implementation project; 3) evaluate the social and economical factors influencing continued maintenance of BMPs following the project termination; and 4) conduct extension/outreach education to transfer knowledge from this research to producers, community leaders, decision-makers, and other stakeholders.

More information
Non-Technical Summary: This project investigates the impact of rangeland Best Management Practices (BMPs) on watershed improvement and effectiveness of a 16 year watershed project on producer behavior. The semi-arid watershed is located in the mixed-grass prairie ecoregion of western South Dakota. The multiagency/disciplinary group of scientists will collaborate with other CEAP projects in the investigation of linkages between conservation and land management practices. This project will utilize soil assessments, rangeland vegetation assessments, historical and current producer surveys, watershed stream gauges, and water quality data collected at state monitoring sites to assess the effectiveness of locally defined conservation practices on range health. This watershed has been identified as impaired because of total dissolved solids and total suspended solids found in the Bad River because of excessive erosion. Demonstration, research, and educational projects were conducted in this watershed from 1990 to 2006. Conservation practices tested included the implementation of: 1) prescribed grazing treatments and proper stocking rates to reduce rangeland sheet and rill erosion; and 2) streambank protection, grade stabilization, deferred grazing, and diversion structures to reduce rangeland channel and gulley erosion. Within targeted watersheds, rangeland BMPs were implemented on greater than 95% of the lands. During the project, forty percent improvements in water quality were reported in targeted watersheds. This project will: 1) assess the potential long-term impacts of conservation practices on one of the most successful rangeland implementation projects in the Great Plains; 2) determine producer perceptions 5 years after the termination of the implementation project; 3) evaluate the social and economical factors influencing continued maintenance of BMPs following the project termination; and 4) conduct extension/outreach education to transfer knowledge from this research to producers, community leaders, decision-makers, and other stakeholders.

Approach: This proposal will focus on seven sub-watersheds within the Lower Bad River Basin. This will allow the research team to conduct a paired watershed approach with pre- and post-conservation practice analyses. We plan to digitize the existing data and identify latitude and longitude coordinates of sampling sites. Data that will be digitized includes geo-referenced vegetation structure and species composition data (1997-2006), stream channel classification data from 1995-1996, and BMP implementation projects. Once the data is entered it can be matched up with the GIS layers of the land use practices, soils, and ecological sites to analyze its effects on watershed health. These will be valuable in further refinement of the state-and-transition model of the Clayey and other ecological site in MLRA 63A. Re-classification of the previous stream channels within the Lower Bad River Basin. New sediment yield estimates will be generated using procedures and models from the earlier estimates (1995-1996) to validate the implemented conservation practices. Re-classification will follow the Rosgen scheme that was used back in 1995-1996 and we will measure the same physical parameters as previous workers. AnnAGNPS modeling incorporating the results of the vegetation data and the revised universal soil loss equation (RUSLE2) will be applied to the SSURGO databases of the sub-watersheds in the Lower Bad River Basin to assess the optimal set and placement of conservation practices. This project will determine the characteristics of previous implementation projects and the attitudes of the ranchers toward those projects. The first part of the research component is to accomplish a complete inventory of all of the implementation projects. By examining the files of the sponsoring agencies, a data set will be compiled documenting the manner in which the producer was recruited, the timing (beginning and end) of the project, the type of project, the nature and degree of funding, and the funding agency. That data set will be completed in the first year of the project. The second part of the research will involve interviews and surveys (principally interviews supplemented by surveys) of the producers who had any of those conservation projects. Standard approaches used in benefit/cost analysis of agricultural projects adapted to conservation resource projects will be used as the analytical framework for the economic analysis in this project. The main emphasis will be on assessment of private (producer) benefits and costs along with estimated public costs associated with adopting the conservation practices in the Lower Bad River Basin. It should also be possible to estimate a range of values for the public benefits of reduced erosion and improved water quality stemming from adoption of the conservation practices. This would complete all major components of an economic benefit / cost analysis and also provide an assessment of the effectiveness of specific conservation practices from the producer/landowner perspective.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
SD00G342-09
Accession number
220050
Categories
Chemical Contaminants
Sanitation and Quality Standards