Established in 1941, the Roberts Conservation District (Roberts County) is located in the extreme northeast corner of the state. The topography divides the county into two distinct areas. The Prairie Coteau occupies the west and southwest parts of the county. The terrain is rough and hilly with steep slopes and some undulating lands containing many lakes, sloughs, potholes, and marshes, with many drainage ways leading into larger drainage’s.
The Minnesota Valley covers the eastern and northern parts of the county. Here land ranges from undulating to flat. Along the east edge of the county is a trench, about 100 feet below the valley that contains Lake Traverse and Big Stone Lake.
Drainage of the area is mostly toward the Minnesota Valley. The drainage is unique in that much of it flows into the Whetstone and Minnesota rivers, enters Big Stone Lake and continues on to eventually discharge into the Gulf of Mexico. At the same time, a portion of the drainage enters Lake Traverse, continues on and eventually discharges into Hudson Bay.
In 1986, the Roberts Conservation District became the sponsor of the Big Stone Lake Watershed Project. Though an assessment program, Big Stone Lake was identified as having impaired water quality. The project was based on implementing best management practices (BMP’s) to prevent sediment and nutrients from entering the surface waters associated with Big Stone Lake.
Areas of concentration were agricultural waste management systems (AWMS), ponds and dams, grassed waterways, buffer strips, stream bank stabilizations, and tree plantings, nutrient management plans, range management, and no till farming. Through partnerships with Natural Resource Conservation Service, Roberts County, Farm Service Agency, SD Department of Environment and Natural Resources, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Conservation Commission, Ducks Unlimited, SD Department of Game, Fish, and Parks, and North American Wetlands, cost share was made available to assist producer with implementation of these practices. The practices implemented have made a marked reduction of sediment and pollutants entering the watershed, resulting in a reduced algae bloom in Big Stone Lake. While Big Stone Lake will never become a clear lake, the severity and duration of the blooms has, and will continue to improve, enhancing its recreational and esthetic qualities.
Lake Traverse is listed as a water body impaired by algae caused by nutrient enrichment. Through water quality and land use analysis, the sources of impairment to the lake were documented. The watershed covers 729,005 acres and is primarily located in Minnesota. Nutrient sources are all non-point and mostly come from agricultural activities. The implementation phase focus was on soil/water conservation practices and included manure management, no till farming, wetland restorations, and crop buffer zones.
What is a Conservation District?
Conservation districts are democracy in action. The conservation districts are legal subdivisions of the State, organized under the South Dakota Conservation Districts law. They are organized by vote of the people within the district and are managed by a board of supervisors, elected by the people.
Conservation districts are responsible for carrying out a program of natural resource conservation on farms, ranches, and urban areas with in the district boundaries.
The conservation district cannot levy taxes and does not have the right of eminent domain. The District may request monies and operation maintenance of the district from the general fund of the district, or from a special levy not to exceed one mill.
The district can own property, accept gifts, sue and be sued, raise funds as profit from work performed and accept and use money provided by the State Conservation Commission or others in promotion of the district’s conservation program.
South Dakota law recognizes the responsibility of land owners and operators to cooperate in using the conservation measures to protect their land under the Blowing Dust and Fragile Lands Act and the Sediment Erosion Control Law.
Districts provide a means for all interested people in the community to work together for the conservation and development of natural resources. A district supervisor represents the people of the district as a member of the official governing body. The Board of Supervisors has the responsibility for developing and putting into action a program to conserve and develop the natural resources of the district.
History of Conservation in South Dakota
The natural resource conservation movement began in earnest in South Dakota in the 1930’s. Drought and high winds were devastating the entire Great Plains. At times dust from the Midwest could be seen in the air over Washington, D.C. something had to be done. In 1933, Congress established the Soil Erosion Service under the Department of Interior.
Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett, a pioneer in the conservation movement, was appointed to head the Service. He remained in the capacity when the Soil Erosion Service became the Soil Conservation Service in 1935 and continued to lead the nation’s conservation efforts until his retirement in 1951.
In each state, erosion control projects were established to demonstrate how erosion could be controlled through the use of various conservation practices. The first such project in South Dakota was near Wolsey. Meanwhile the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) put thousands of young men to work on erosion projects. Four main camps in Alcester, Huron, Chamberlain, and Sturgis and three side camps in Vermillion, Miller and Presho assisted many farmers and ranchers in South Dakota with the construction of conservation projects.
During April of 1937, each state received a letter from President Franklin Roosevelt urging them to pass laws allowing for the organization of soil conservation districts. Arkansas became the first state to do so, rapidly followed by 21 other states including South Dakota.
South Dakota district laws became effective July 1, 1937. Within six months, the TriCounty and Brown Marshall Districts were organized. There are 70 organized conservation districts in the state today including the Oglala Sioux Tribal Conservation District organized in 1999.
In 1941, the twelve existing conservation districts met in Mitchell to consider forming a state organization. They elected E.B. Dwight of Springfield chairman and Horace Wagner of Reliance vice-chairman. Articles of Incorporation were prepared on February 9 and 10, 1942, in Pierre and adopted on September 23 and 24, 1943 in Chamberlain. This organization became known as the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts (SDACD).
SDACD membership includes all conservation districts in the state. Their purpose is to promote conservation between districts, to facilitate the exchange of information relating to the administration and operation of districts, to promote the interests and activities of other organizations in natural resource conservation, and to develop and carry out programs for controlling soil erosion and conserving natural resources.
In 1973, the South Dakota Association of Conservation District Employee (SDACDE) was formed. It is an affiliate of the SDACD designed to promote better cooperation and coordination of soil and water conservation activities through better-motivated and educated district employees.
The SDACDE has provided improved statewide district communication and coordination, employee training and development programs, and a voice through which the district employee may express their concerns and opinions.
Membership in SDACDE is open to all conservation district employees. Conservation district employees may also become members of the Northern Plains Regional Association of Conservation District Employees.

RCD Board 2017

Calvin Thompson (Sisseton) – Chairman
Duane Schneider (Sisseton) – Supervisor
Ben Hanson (Sisseton) – Assistant Supervisor
Lee Solberg (Sisseton) –  Supervisor
Cody Hanson (Sisseton) – Treasurer
Tim Gleason (Claire City) – Vice Chairman
Robert Osborne (Wilmot) – Assistant Supervisor

 Meeting Dates
The Board of Supervisors generally meet the second Wednesday of each month at the USDA Service Center, 2018 SD Hwy Sisseton SD. The meetings are open to the public.

Roberts Conservation District Annual Report 2017

Jodi Hook, District Manager


Jodi Hook has served the people of Roberts County as the District Manager of Roberts Conservation District (RCD) since July 2010. She received her Applied Associates degree in Marketing, Sales, and Management from LATI, Watertown, SD. She assists with tree planting and installing fabric. She sells hand plant trees at the tree shed and also conservation seeds and custom seeding for the producers. She helps manage the RCD Facebook page. She is responsible to the Board of Supervisors of the RCD.

Natural Resource Conservation  Service Employees

Kent Duerre, District Conservationist (DC)

Kent Duerre has served Roberts County as DC since 1990. He started his career with the Soil Conservation Service in 1987 in Aberdeen, SD. Following his service in Aberdeen, he served as a soil conservationist in both Winner, SD and Chamberlain, SD, leading to a position as DC in DeSmet, SD prior to serving in Roberts County. He received his bachelor’s degree in agronomy from SDSU in Brookings, SD. Kent coordinates the administration and operations of the Sisseton Field Office (FO) in addition to assisting the RCD. He works with the producers and FO staff to establish conservation practices within the county utilizing a wide variety of farm programs to preserve and protect the natural resources of Roberts County.  kent.duerre@sd.usda.gov

 Mike Jensen began in the Sisseton FO NRCS staff in November 2008 as a Soil Conservation Technician. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from NSU in Aberdeen, SD in 2001. He was employed as the Watershed Coordinator by RCD from 2001-2008. Mike primarily works on conservation and construction planning for area producers with an emphasis on construction planning, design, and implementation. mike.jensen@sd.usda.gov

Mike Jensen, Soil Conservation Technician

Lorne Aadland, Tribal Liaison

Lorne Aadland has been the Tribal Liaison working with the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (SWO) since 2008. His first exposure to conservation was “selling” conservation as Project Coordinator for the Big Stone Lake/Little Minnesota River PL566 project in 1997. He became a conservation technician in 1999. Lorne’s primary customer s the SWO where he keeps Tribal Realty and the BIA updated on USDA programs such as EQIP, WRP, CRP, and Best Management Practices on approximately 140,000 acres of Tribal Trust lands in the original reservation boundaries. . The most enjoyable part of the job is working with conservation minded individuals to put conservation on the ground and protect our natural resources. Developing grazing strategies utilizing fences and water development to maximize production and profit for operators while protecting the resources is definitely the highlight of working for NRCS. lorne.aadland@sd.usda.gov

Thomas Tran, Soil Conservationist

Thomas Tran earned a major in Environmental Science at the University of Washington in 2008. He started as a biologist career intern for the NRCS in Aberdeen, SD in 2008. In 2010 he started in the Sisseton FO where he currently serves as a Soil Conservationist. He works with landowners to preserve and maintain the natural resources on their farm through CRP, WRP, CSP, and EQIP. He assists Grant County in making certified wetland determinations. He serves as the Asian Pacific Islander Organization (APIO) Northern Plains representative.

Ron Christensen, Soil Conservationist

Ron Christensen started in the conservation field in Flandreau, SD in 1987. Following that he held the DC position in Kadoka, SD for 8 years and Webster for 5 years. He is currently a soil conservationist for the Sisseton FO and works with all programs (WRP, CRP, CSP, and wetlands). ronald.christensen@sd.usda.gov

Brandi Haubris, District Conservation Aid

Brandi Haubris was hired as the Roberts District Conservation Aid in 2010. She provides administrative and marketing support to the NRCS and RCD. Brandi received an Associates degree in Business Administration from STI, Sioux Falls, SD. brandi.haubris@sd.usda.gov