Next Meeting

Date: April 21st, 2022
Time: 1:00 PM
Where: Belle Fourche USDA Service Center,1837 5th Avenue, Belle Fourche, SD and Teleconference/MS Teams

The next scheduled meeting for the Belle Fourche River Watershed Partnership is at 1 p.m. on Thursday, April 21, 2022.


LOCATION CHANGED to Belle Fourche USDA Service Center,1837 5th Avenue, Belle Fourche, SD 57717


The meeting will also have a virtual MS Teams meeting link and teleconference number for partners that would like to call into the meeting, please contact for meeting details. 


Please note - the Belle Fourche River Watershed Partnership Board may at times use a telephone conference call, videoconference, or other electronic means to conduct business necessary for the Partnership's function and activities before the next scheduled quarterly Partnership meeting. 

Mission Statement
Coordinate available resources to address concerns associated with the Belle Fourche River Watershed and the riparian areas within.

Justin W. Krajewski
Project Coordinator


Yvette Kirkman
District Manager
605-892-3368 ext. 3

1837 5th Ave
Belle Fourche, SD 57717

Welcome to Our Website!

Welcome to the Belle Fourche River Watershed Partnership's (BFRWP) Website! The website is here to provide you with information about how you can participate in the Partnership's activities. The Partnership is continually seeking innovative ways to improve conservation in the watershed while promoting economic sustainability and growth.


Butte-Lawrence County 4H Range Judging Team Heading to the 2022 National Land and Range Judging Contest in Oklahoma City in May


SDSU Extension Announces 2021 Rangeland and Soils Day Results


The Butte-Lawrence County 4H Range Judging Team won the South Dakota 2021 Rangeland and Soils Day’s Range Judging Contest held in Murdo last June. The team is comprised of Morgan Mackaben, Bennett Gordon, Farynn Knutson and Tate Ollila.


Now, the team will compete at the 2022 National Range Judging Contest in Oklahoma City during the first week in May. More information can be found at or


The team has paid for their registration and also received funding from the SD State 4H and the Lawrence County Conservation District, however, contributions are still needed from sponsoring individuals or organizations.


If would like to contribute to sponsoring the team on their trip to compete at the 2022 National Range Judging Contest, please contact Dave Ollila at (605) 569-0224 or


CLICK HERE TO SEE THE NEWSCENTER1 Story about "Young producers attend water health and conservation event"

To help our future generations do that, local producers brought their children to the Butte/Lawrence County Fairgrounds on Saturday to learn from soil health experts about how that resource can be managed.

July 10, 2021 by Colton Hall

NISLAND, S.D. — Water and how it’s managed can be a major factor in a successful farm or ranch.

But when a statewide drought threatens a valuable resource like H-two-O, it’s up to our producers to take what they have and make the most of it.


To help our future generations do that, local producers brought their children to the Butte/Lawrence County Fairgrounds on Saturday to learn from soil health experts about how that resource can be managed.

“We need to think about how to conserve water in all aspects, and for agriculturalists, that’s certainly important of how to hold water on the land and keep it of a quality that usable for crops and livestock production,” said Dave Ollila, a Soil Health Specialist, with the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition.

At the event, the kids were given a down to earth look at soil – which featured a rain simulation.

Those experts pointed to the western U.S.’s problem of water and how these producers need to look at how the water system works.

A big part of that cycle is knowing where you stand with what’s on your farm – especially as you plan for the next major drought.


“Now is the time to begin planning for the next time drought hits, it could be next year, it might be a few years from now but we have technical specialists in field offices throughout the state that can make a site visit to your place and talk about the barriers that you’ve got, challenges that you have, as well as the opportunities,” said Tanse Herrmann, the state Grazing Lands Soil Health Specialist, with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

In the end, these producers are conserving the water but not just for them.

It’s a trickle effect that goes deeper than the livelihoods for farmers and ranchers and explores how we all use water.

“It’s bigger than just agriculture and it’s an environmental thing that not just as local, regional or national impacts, but a global impact of how we manage our environment will serve agriculturalists but also every person in the world,” Ollila said.

Soil professionals helping future producers navigate conservation waters.



Final Webinar for the Irrigation Water Management and Soil Health Webinar Series

The Butte Conservation District, Belle Fourche River Watershed Partnership, and the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies have developed a web series on improving irrigation in the Belle Fourche Watershed. This series will host industry leaders, conservation experts, and producer panels to highlight irrigation improvements.


Thursday May 20th 7:00 pm - 8:00pm CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THIS ZOOM WEBINAR
-Alex Roeber with DENR funding pivots with 319 funds
-A variety of moisture sensor companies will discuss their products and their benefits
-Producer panel discussing the benefits of moisture sensors and improving yields

Download Irrigation Series Webinar Flyer Here


All Sessions will be hosted virtually on Zoom and accessible both online and by telephone
To register and receive call in information contact: Jennifer Lutze at or 1-760-920-1196


LISTEN TO THE RECORDING from the Thursday March 25th Webinar

-NRCS representatives will discuss cost share opportunities for pivots and irrigation pipeline

-BFID discussing regulations when converting from flood to center pivot
-Local pivot dealers will discuss their products and services


LISTEN TO THE RECORDING from the Thursday April 22nd Webinar

-Valerie Riter NRCS Area Agronomist will discuss plant water demands in different growth stages
-Kent Cooley NRCS Area Soil Scientist will discuss soil water movement and the challenges of irrigating clay soils
-Dave Ollila with the SD Soil Health Coalition will discuss improving soil health under pivots
-Producer panel on the benefits of increasing soil health under pivots

Irrigation Project Tour TBD in June/July

Organizers of this event are not endorsing any of the companies during this series. The intention of the organizers is to allow you the opportunity to listen to multiple service providers to help you discover the best solution for your operation. The companies speaking are not the only businesses that supply these services and we encourage you to look for other solutions to best meet your needs. 

(Please Note: These webinars will be recorded for record-keeping and training purposes and you will be prompted to consent during registration.)



South Dakota Soil Health Coalition (SDSHC)

Soil Health Planning and Improvement Project


The Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management Program has designated funds in South Dakota to provide technical and financial assistance to landowners and operators within the program’s active watershed project areas who are willing to help improve water quality by adopting certain soil health best management practices.


For an application or more information, please visit or if you are located within the Belle Fourche River Watershed, please contact Dave Ollila, soil health specialist, 605-569-0224,


Download SDSHC 319 Project Fact Sheet Here

This assistance will be administered by the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition (SDSHC) in partnership with the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts (SDACD), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources (SD DENR), and South Dakota State University Department of Natural Resource Management.


Through this program, technical assistance and cost sharing funds are available for planting cover crops; planting forage and biomass in riparian areas; and fencing, planting riparian buffers, and stock watering best management practices for pasture grazing.


SDSHC staff will also provide advice and technical assistance for other conservation practices and work with landowners to determine the availability of financial assistance for best management practices for their operations.
Project Areas


To qualify for Section 319 financial assistance, supported work must occur in South Dakota’s active Section 319 watershed project areas. These include: South Central Watershed Project, Northeast Glacial Lakes Watershed Project, Little Minnesota River Basin, Belle Fourche River, Vermillion River, and the entire Big Sioux River watershed. See the map below.


Participating landowners and operators must complete an application and be willing to provide documentation of work completed, including receipts for services and materials, documentation of time spent on supported work, and before and after photos. All supported practices must be approved by SDSHC prior to beginning work and verified by SDSHC staff after work completion. Additionally, participants must grant permission for SDSHC staff to access the work site and to access relevant participant files within the NRCS system. Participation in the program is also dependent upon available funds.


Belle Fourche River Watershed Partnership Project Announces Batching Date

NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE (NRCS), Huron, S.D., January 13, 2020 The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in South Dakota (SD) have announced a call for applications for the Belle Fourche River Watershed Partnership (BFRWP) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Project.

The batching date is February 12, 2021. Landowners are encouraged to contact the local NRCS office at their local USDA Service Center.

The Irrigation Efficiency and Soil Health RCPP Project is a partnership between SD NRCS, BFWRP, SD Department of Environment and Natural Resources (SD DENR) and the Belle Fourche Irrigation District (BFID). The project has $1,203,000 in RCPP funds being matched by $1,674,000 in partner contributions over the course of three years. The goal of the project is to convert acres from being flood-irrigated to sprinkler systems and earthen ditches to buried pipeline in order to to improve water usage efficiency, degraded plant conditions, field sediment, and nutrient and pathogen loss. This will increase the land’s plant productivity and overall soil health. “This project is another step of our mission to improve crop production, water efficiency, and to reduce the flow of solids into the Belle Fourche River.  We greatly appreciate the assistance from NRCS on this project…NRCS has been a key partner from the start” said BFRWP Treasurer and Lawrence Conservation District Chair Karl Jensen.

Success will be measured by the number of producers enrolled and the positive changes in soil health and water quality/quantity. To learn more about RCPP and other technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, please visit the SD NRCS website at or contact your local USDA service center.

Specialists with the USDA NRCS are working and available by phone or e-mail while taking safety measures in response to COVID-19. For technical assistance, please contact your local NRCS office here:

Veterans of the U.S. Armed Services may receive preference for NRCS programs offered in the 2018 Farm Bill and higher payment rates.  These voluntary conservation programs benefit both agricultural producers and the environment and include financial and technical assistance, as well as easements.

 More info is available at the NRCS Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Website


FOR MORE INFO CONTACT: The NRCS Belle Fourche office at (605) 892-3368 ext. 3 or the NRCS Sturgis office at (605) 347-4952 Ext. 3 before February 12, 2021.


SD NRCS News Release - Belle Fourche River Watershed Partnership Project Announces Batching Date


 USDA NRCS Begins Planning for RCPP and CIS Programs

Belle Fourche, SD, August 31, 2020 – The NRCS is set to begin planning for the funding of RCPP and CIS programs. You can download the RCPP CIS application and short questionnaire here...Download the RCPP CIS  Application and Questionnaire HERE


The application and questionnaire must be returned no later than October 5, 2020.

Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) - This program will provide cost share for converting flood irrigation to pivot systems and applying practices that will increase soil health. Contract holders will have between 1-9 years to apply any practices in their contract. The same rules will apply as the EQIP program. Priority will be given to producers interested in installing a pivot, using soil moisture sensors, and implementing soil health practices such as cover crops and no-till. If we have evaluated your field in the past and the soils do not support a pivot, we will not cost share one through this program. 

Conservation Implementation Strategy (CIS) - 
This program will provide cost share for conversion of open irrigation ditches to buried irrigation pipeline or installation of new irrigation pipeline to shorten irrigation runs. Associated practices, such as cover crops and no-till, will also be cost shared. The same rules will apply as the EQIP program. Contract holders will have 1 to 10 years to complete practices scheduled in their contract. The priorities below will be used to rank BUT are not required as we will use the ranking system and projects with one or more of these conditions will be funded first, and then projects without any of the following priorities will be funded until money is spent for that year. The following priorities will be used when ranking:


1. Projects within the Township 8N Range 6E which is the area located between Newell and Vale. Although this is the priority area, we will fund projects outside of this area.


2. Priority will be given to applicants who are implementing or willing to install soil health practices such as cover crops, no-till, grazing cover crops, and crop diversification.


3. Anyone willing to use moisture sensors for 3 years to schedule irrigation.


4. Lastly, fields where pivots won’t work because of soil type, size, or other reasons.  

Again, please return all forms no later than October 5, 2020.


FOR MORE INFO PLEASE CONTACT: The NRCS Belle Fourche office at (605) 892-3368 ext. 3 


Blair Brothers Angus Ranch to Receive South Dakota Leopold Conservation Award


Pierre, SD, April 22, 2020 – Blair Brothers Angus Ranch of Sturgis has been selected to receive the 2020 South Dakota Leopold Conservation Award®. In conjunction with Earth Day, Governor Kristi Noem announced that Blair Brothers Angus Ranch would receive the prestigious award, given in honor of renowned conservationist, Aldo Leopold. It recognizes private landowners who inspire others with their dedication to the land, water and wildlife resources in their care. The entire article is available here Blair Brothers Angus Ranch to Receive South Dakota Leopold Conservation Award


In South Dakota, the award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and the South Dakota Grassland Coalition.


Brothers Ed and Rich Blair, and their sons Chad and Britton are the namesakes of Blair Brothers Angus Ranch. The cow-calf, stocker and feed lot business spans 40,000 acres of deeded and leased rangeland near Sturgis and Vale in western South Dakota. Embracing conservation practices that enhance soil, water, livestock and wildlife has allowed the ranch to evolve and grow with each generation since Enos Blair established it more than a century ago.


The Blairs will be presented with the $10,000 award at the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association’s Annual Convention in Rapid City, December 1-2.


“The South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association congratulates the Blairs on being named our 2020 Leopold Conservation Award winners. Their operation exemplifies how cattle, wildlife and the range can mutually benefit from thoughtful management, while also supporting a multi-generational family business,” said Jodie Anderson, South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association Executive Director. “We congratulate them as our 2019 Leopold Conservation Award recipients and applaud their conservation ethic.”


“The Blairs’ natural resources stewardship includes practices such as rotational grazing, no-till farming, seeding cropland back to grass and developing a drought management plan. Their commitment to conservation has proven beneficial not only to their cattle, but also to their watershed and the diverse species of wildlife that call their ranch home,” said Jim Faulstich, South Dakota Grassland Coalition Chairman. “The South Dakota Grassland Coalition extends our congratulations to the Blairs for being named this year’s Leopold Conservation Award winners.”


“Recipients of this award are real life examples of conservation-minded agriculture,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer. “These hard-working families are essential to our environment, food system and rural economy.”


Award applicants were judged based on their demonstration of improved resource conditions, innovation, long-term commitment to stewardship, sustained economic viability, community and civic leadership, and multiple use benefits.


The Leopold Conservation Award Program in South Dakota made possible thanks to the generous support of South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, South Dakota Grassland Coalition, First Dakota National Bank, South Dakota Department of Agriculture, South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation, South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks, South Dakota State University College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, SD DENR Discovery Center, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Audubon Dakota, Bad River Ranches, Belle Fourche River Watershed Partnership, Daybreak Ranch, Ducks Unlimited, McDonald’s, Millborn Seeds, North Central SARE-Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, Professional Alliance, South Dakota’s Conservation Districts, South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, The Nature Conservancy, South Dakota Pheasants Forever, Todd Mortenson Family, U.S. Fish, Wildlife-Partners for Fish and Wildlife, Wagner Land & Livestock, and Kopriva Angus LLC of Raymond, South Dakota.


Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 21 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation.


For more information on the award, visit


USDA’s NRCS Invests in Partner-Driven Conservation Project in the Belle Fourche River Watershed in South Dakota


Belle Fourche, SD, April 16, 2020 – The Belle Fourche River Watershed Partnership (BFRWP) in South Dakota has been awarded $1.6 million of Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) funding that was announced by the USDA’s Natural Resources Service (NRCS) Chief Matthew Lohr on Thursday, April 16, 2020. The BFRWP, the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources (SD DENR), and Belle Fourche Irrigation District (BFID) are contributing another $1.6 million of partner funding to the project. More information will be available in May at the BFRWP’s website at


The BFRWP is the lead partner for the project that includes the NRCS, SD DENR and BFID. The project will work with agricultural producers to convert flood irrigated fields to more efficient irrigation systems to continue improving irrigation efficiency and soil health. One way producers will be able to accomplish these efficiencies is to convert flood irrigated fields to irrigation under center pivots. By increasing the water efficiency at the field level, the project will have effects throughout the community. This project will invest $3.2 million into the area’s economy through local contractors and vendors, including supplies such as the irrigation pipe and center pivots. Besides economic benefits, there will also be environmental benefits, for example, the installation of center pivots will decrease agricultural demand for water, which will increase the water supply available in Orman Dam (Belle Fourche Reservoir) for wildlife and recreation.


The USDA’s NRCS announced that it is investing $4 million in SD through its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). “I’m excited to announce the first RCPP awards under the 2018 Farm Bill,” said Jeff Zimprich, State Conservationist in SD. “Through collaboration and aligning our resources toward a common goal, we’re making an impact for natural resource conservation that could never have been realized on our own.” RCPP uses a partner-driven approach to fund innovative solutions to natural resource challenges. Through RCPP, NRCS and partners work together with landowners and producers to implement a variety of conservation activities that offer impactful and measurable outcomes. These projects will support diverse agricultural and natural resource objectives, from helping farmers and ranchers improve water quality, soil health and drought resiliency to protecting drinking water and enhancing wildlife habitat.


View the BFRWP Project on the NRCS RCPP StoryMap


FOR MORE INFO PLEASE CONTACT: Justin W. Krajewski, BFRWP Project Coordinator, (605) 877-2134

Download the BFRWP RCPP News Release (PDF)

The NRCS' RCPP is now a stand-alone Farm Bill program with $300 million annually available for partner-driven projects. In addition to the general RCPP projects announced today, NRCS has already awarded more than $50 million for 18 renewals of 2014 Farm Bill projects. A separate RCPP Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA) funding announcement is currently open until May 18. Since 2015, RCPP has combined $1 billion in NRCS investments with close to $2 billion in partner dollars to implement conservation practices nationwide. There are currently 341 active RCPP projects and close to 2,000 RCPP partners. Read more about the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.


BFRWP Activities and Accomplishments

The BFRWP has funding opportunities for improved irrigation water management and grazing management within the watershed.  We also cooperate to provide a number of outreach and education events that support no-till and cover crop practices for improved soil health.  Please contact us for more information.  


Groundwater Maps
The BFRWP has completed a groundwater study that compiled the available groundwater data in the watershed and transformed it into a usable product. The first stage of this project was to create depth to aquifer maps and structural contour maps. Hard copies of these maps will be available at the Butte, Lawrence, and Elk Creek Conservation District offices.  To view electronic copies of these maps click on the groundwater map link under the documents section of this website. 


Irrigation Improvement Project Funding
The BFRWP has funding available to convert flood irrigation to center pivots and to convert open ditches to pipelines in flood irrigation systems.  We encourage you to contact the Butte/Lawrence or Meade County USDA Service Center to discuss program options. 

Rainfall Simulator Trailer
The BFRWP has purchased a rainfall simulator trailer intended to be used as an educational tool to teach all age groups about soil erosion. The intention of the Partnership is to have the trailer available for outreach activities in the region, including agricultural related school functions, county fairs, and farm shows. For more information please contact us.
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