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We employed simple GIS methods primarily utilizing the South Dakota Farm Service Agency’s Common Land Unit (CLU) data layers from 2013, along with 2012 US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) county mosaic aerial imagery, to evaluate approximately 22.6 million acres of land in the 44 counties that comprise eastern South Dakota. Mapping of this total project area was done in three distinct project phases from 2014 through 2016. We utilized the CLU data layer, queried to show current and former cropland, to first identify and remove any areas with a cropping history, regardless of current land use. We then employed a step by step analysis to analyze the remaining land in approximately one mi2 sections in order to identify and remove additional historic or current land disturbances. The remaining land tracts were then categorized as potentially ‘undisturbed grassland’ or ‘undisturbed woodland’ by simple reason of deduction. Finally, we removed all known water bodies larger than 40 acres as defined by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks’ (SDGFP) Statewide Water Bodies layer in order to gain a more accurate interpretation of the remaining undisturbed grassland/wetland complex.

Overall, 5,488,025 acres (24.2%) of the approximately 22.6 million acres in eastern South Dakota were designated as potentially undisturbed. However, a small portion of the undisturbed acres did have certain indications suggesting historical disturbance, and thus were flagged as ‘go-back’ acres. A total of 214,981 acres of undisturbed land were flagged as potential go-back acres. The analysis of go-back acres varied between the three project phases.

Of the total approximately 22.6 million acre analysis area, approximately 14.9 million acres (65.9%) were deemed to have a cropping history according to the FSA CLU data, while approximately 1.6 million acres (6.9%) were found to have some type of land disturbance not indicated by a CLU crop code, for a total of 16.5 million acres (72.8%) of all lands with some type of proven disturbance history.

Within the total approximately 22.6 million acre evaluation area, approximately 1.4 million acres (6.1%) were found to have some sort of permanent protection from conversion (some of these acres have a disturbance history). Nearly 1 million acres of the approximately 5.5 million acres of undisturbed land (17.5%) had some level of permanent conservation protection status. In total, we identified 962,734 acres of undisturbed habitat that is protected from future conversion, representing only 4.3% of eastern South Dakota’s total land base.

Within eastern South Dakota we identified 531 wind turbines, of which 269 (50.7%) were located adjacent to potentially undisturbed areas. Only 41 (7.7%) were located adjacent to undisturbed lands permanently protected from land conversion.

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Prairie Coteau, Missouri Coteau, grasslands, FSA data


Environmental Sciences | Life Sciences | Physical and Environmental Geography


The final report is In Copyright: © 2016 South Dakota Board of Regents


The final report is a publication of the SDSU Extension.

Quantifying Undisturbed (Native) Lands in Eastern South Dakota: 2013


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