Riparian Buffer Initiative

Riparian buffers improve water quality and provide valuable habitat, bank stabilization, additional forage for livestock, and increase the value of marginal crop lands. They are an excellent conservation practice but are not used enough to provide significant water quality improvements in South Dakota's impaired watersheds.

Project Description

Nonpoint source pollution can be difficult to control, measure, and monitor, and has a major effect on our rivers and streams. In South Dakota, common pollutants include sediments, nitrogen, phosphorus, and bacteria. These contaminants reach our surface waters through runoff and erosion. Riparian buffers are an effective way to filter out pollutants by slowing down runoff and allowing sediments to filter out. Buffers also allow nutrients to be taken up by plant tissues before entering waterbodies.

Through the South Dakota Riparian Buffer Initiative, we have identified streams that are degraded and critically important to the state and our residents which need additional resources to foster greater enrollment in conservation practices to reduce nonpoint source pollution.

Producers that enroll in the initiative will be required to buffer either existing pastureland or revegetate cropland. Enrollment requires a buffer of at minimum 50 ft and not to exceed 120 ft. Vegetation may not be harvested or mowed between May 1 and August 1. Vegetation may not be grazed between May 1 and September 30. A minimum of four inches of cover must always be maintained.

Riparian Buffer Initiative (RBI) - Overview

Goal: To establish over 3,000 acres of new riparian buffers to make water quality improvements in South Dakota's watersheds.

Step 1: Improve the tax incentive by increasing the tax break from 40 percent to 50 percent and changing the enrollment requirement from annual to once every 10 years (completed during the 2021 legislative session - HB 1042).

Step 2: DANR and GFP are working with a wide range of partners to acquire funding for a state riparian buffer program using annual cash payments to incentivize the use of buffers on private lands in listed impaired watersheds. The program will be outcome driven and focused on maximizing water quality improvements and habitat protection. Enrollment is voluntary and will be managed by DANR.


  • - January 2021 - May 2021 - Program development / Grant application submitted
  • - Fall 2021 - Open RBI small scale enrollment in the Big Sioux River
  • - Winter/Spring 2022 - Open RBI enrollment

Minimum Program Requirements

  1. Land must be within one hundred twenty feet of a waterbody noted in ARSD 74:51:03 or must be locally designated by the local board of county commissioners as outlined in SDCL 10-6-31.7
  2. Land must have existing or planted perennial vegetation
  3. Vegetation may not be harvested or mowed between May 1 - August 1
  4. Vegetation may not be grazed between May 1 - Sept. 30
  5. A minimum of four inches of cover must always be maintained
  6. Buffers must be a minimum of fifty feet and cannot exceed 120 feet in width
  7. Must commit to a ten-year contract

Additional incentives will be offered on targeted stream segments identified by DANR, GFP and project partners. To date, targeted stream segments are included in the Upper and Lower Big Sioux watersheds. DANR will continue to evaluate and modify the list of targeted stream segments as needed.