Proposed merger of South Dakota agencies would alter responsibilities

Forum News Service
Farm Forum

PIERRE, S.D. - Pending legislative approval, a merger that would combine the South Dakota Department of Agriculture with the state’s Department of Environmental and Natural Resources would give the state’s conservation and forestry division command of keeping water bodies clean.

That’s according to Department of Agriculture Secretary Hunter Roberts, who spoke to the state’s conservation commission on Sept. 30.

Roberts said grant funding from the Environmental Protection Agency won’t change and will still be allocated through the conservation division, which is awarded to projects that improve water quality.

The conservation and forestry division, under the direction of Bill Smith, will also take over assessing water bodies for impairment, recommend and provide funding for water quality implementation projects and Dakota Water Watch citizens monitoring program, and prepare total maximum daily load limit reports for impaired waters.

That will expand the mission of the division, which is currently “to conserve, protect, improve, and develop the natural resources of South Dakota for its citizens.” Division responsibilities include:

  • Resource conservation.
  • Community forestry.
  • Forest health.
  • Service forestry program.

Roberts said the budget has not yet been proposed for the two-in-one department, which would need an executive order from Gov. Kristi Noem and legislative approval. If that happens, the department merger would be effective by July 2021.