Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Natural Resource Management

First Advisor

Joshua D. Stafford


bird, CREP, evaluation, grassland, landowner, motivation


Grassland restoration efforts in North America typically share the goal of improving ecological conditions for wildlife; however, it is unclear in many cases if goals are met. The South Dakota Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) was initiated to alleviate agriculturally-related environmental degradation by converting 40,469 hectares of eligible cropland and marginal pastureland to perennial vegetation. The program aims to provide habitat for obligate grassland breeding songbirds, while producing an additional 285,000 pheasants and 60,000 ducks annually. As part of a collaborative comprehensive evaluation effort, my research assessed the response of grassland-dependent breeding birds to CREP implementation at varying spatial scales between May 2013 and August 2015. My study highlighted both field and landscape scale variables are critical to understanding the interconnected ecological network and meeting program goals. Competitive model variables presented variability between avian demographics and our species groups (i.e., other species, song bird species, CREP focal species, and waterfowl species) related to the ecology of species and functional groups; emphasizing that implementation of conservation programs with broad and noncollaborative objectives may receive undesired outcomes. In addition to the biological assessment, I integrated a human dimensions study to evaluate CREP landowner motivations for program enrollment. My study highlighted three themes of motivation for CREP enrollment. First, the requirement of providing public access with CREP enrollment delivered additional financial and non-financial incentive for enrollees. Second, based on demographics data, landowner age represented a potential shift of producers towards retirement and decisions to reduce active production fields. Third, CREP landowners conceptualized their own personal motivations within the program that would provide greater benefit to their family, community, and local fish and wildlife. Implementation of an integrated stepwise platform based on biological and socioeconomic data will benefit resource managers’ and policy makers’ understanding of conservation program effectiveness and future success.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (U.S.) -- Evaluation.
Conservation of natural resources -- South Dakota.
Habitat conservation -- South Dakota.


Includes bibliographical references



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright