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“The mere mention of the word “wetland” in coffee shops and other gathering places on the prairies today brings out emotions and opinions that run the gamut from saving them all to draining them all.  To some, what we do with wetlands has been, and still is, a personal choice, a matter of exercising individual rights on private property.  To others, wetlands are community resources that provide values that touch all of society.  They contend that what is done to and about wetlands is a community decision regardless of ownership.  Herein lays the controversy we have experienced over wetlands on the prairie – a resource which provides societal benefits, yet is privately owned.

The owners of prairie wetlands, like landowners everywhere, are possessive of their rights and options to make the most of their investment or inheritance.  Those interested in the public benefits are equally motivated to ensure the wetland values are defended.” – Wetland Resources of Eastern South Dakota


Wetlands are some of the most productive and dynamic habitats in the world.  South Dakota is home to over 1 million wetlands that comprise over 9% of the landscape.  According to Johnson and Higgins (SDSU, 1997, Wetland Resources of Eastern South Dakota) temporary and seasonal wetlands account for approximately 92% (approximately 855,000 basins) of all eastern SD wetlands, most of which are depressional wetlands known as prairie potholes.  South Dakota is in the heart of the prairie pothole region, the duck factory of North America. 

Wetlands have many functions.  The physical, chemical, and biological interactions within wetlands are often referred to as wetland functions.  These functions include surface and subsurface water storage, nutrient cycling, particulate removal, maintenance of plant and animal communities, water filtration or purification, and groundwater recharge.

Values to Society

The characteristics of wetlands that are beneficial to society are called wetland values.  Perhaps these can best be thought of as the importance of a wetland function to an individual or group. Some examples of wetland values include reduced damage from flooding, water quality improvement, and fish and wildlife habitat.   There are a number of other values society receives from wetlands.  Some of these values are providing sites for hunting, fishing, trapping, photography, outdoor classrooms or environmental education, and the enjoyment of open spaces.  The ecological diversity and high productivity of wetlands make them one of the most scenic features on any landscape.

 What is a wetland

 What Farmers Need to Know about Wetlands

Wetlands Mitigation Banking