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Road Ditch Mowing Restrictions In Place

PIERRE, S.D. - The South Dakota Departments of Transportation and Game, Fish
and Parks are reminding landowners that there are restrictions on how soon
road right-of-way ditches may be mowed. The mowing restrictions only cover
the state trunk and interstate highway systems.

Landowners may mow after July 10 in eastern South Dakota and after June 15
in Lyman, Gregory and Tripp counties. There are no mowing restrictions for
other counties west of the Missouri River.

"These are important dates to note, not only because these mowing
restrictions are guided by state law, but also because of the benefits they
bring our state," said DOT Secretary Judy Payne. "One of the primary
benefits of these public right-of-ways is as habitat for wildlife
production, especially for pheasants."

Tom Kirschenmann, a wildlife biologist for GFP, notes that roadsides play a
significant role in pheasant production and the overall pheasant population.
Studies estimate that roadsides produce 14 percent of South Dakota's overall
population. Roadside ditches also provide important nesting habitat for
other game bird species such as grouse, partridge, and ducks.

Game, Fish and Parks conducted a study in 2004 which shows that proper
management of road ditch mowing can contribute to local game bird
populations. The study concluded that, while roadside ditches are no
substitute for quality Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres, they can
have a positive impact on local pheasant reproduction. In fact, the value of
roadsides to South Dakota's pheasant production is even more important where
large blocks of undisturbed nesting cover is lacking. In these locations,
nesting habitat provided by roadsides is critical in maintaining a local
pheasant population. The study also found that a mowing release date later
than July 10 would reduce nesting pheasant mortality and enhance avian

Kirschenmann pointed out that when it comes to ground nesting birds; Aug. 1
marks the end of the critical nesting period. Because of that, GFP delays
mowing on its properties until at least July 15, and in some cases, even
later," he said. "The longer we can delay mowing, the better the chances for
pheasant production and survival."

"To this point we have had good nesting conditions, and we can expect to see
roadside ditches used extensively by nesting birds," Kirschenmann said. "The
mowing dates were put in place to protect nesting birds, their nests and
young chicks. We would encourage folks to delay mowing ditches even later
than the July 10 release date to provide nesting birds the best opportunity
to be successful in their nesting and brood-rearing efforts."

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