Ag Dept., DNR Merger for SD Back in Spotlight
Friday, January 15, 2021
PIERRE, S.D. -- South Dakota's governor is reviving her proposal to merge two state agencies, including one that oversees protections for public lands and waterways, raising concerns from environmental groups.
In her State-of-the-State address this week, Gov. Kristi Noem made mention of her idea from last year to combine the Department of Environment and Natural Resources with the Agriculture Department.
Noem said agriculture is the state's top industry and needs new ways to keep it thriving.
Chris Hesla, executive director of the South Dakota Wildlife Federation, called the merger a bad idea.
"The two organizations perform distinctly different missions and should be separate," Hesla contended. "The majority of the DNR's mission has nothing to do with agriculture, although the portion that does overlap primarily is [of] a regulatory nature."
Hesla worried a merger would weaken enforcement efforts for pollution from farm runoff. Some ag-industry leaders have expressed concerns as well, especially if future governors place a greater emphasis on protecting the environment.
But the South Dakota Farm Bureau backs the proposed merger, saying it would create efficiencies, as producers routinely work with both agencies.
Hesla stated his biggest concern is how a merger would affect the state's water resources.
He noted surface-water conditions are deteriorating, and agriculture has been a key contributor to climate-related issues.
"Agricultural pollution is a threat, and it's a worry," Hesla cautioned.
A report last year by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said 78% of South Dakota rivers and streams are "impaired" in terms of water quality.
Under state law, the Legislature would have to authorize a combined budget for both departments to merge. That's expected to come up in budget talks this session.
get more stories like this via email
Health and Wellness
California's medical aid-in-dying law is back in court. Three patients with disabilities and two doctors are asking to intervene in a lawsuit …
A new federal jobs program aims to mobilize tens of thousands of young Americans to address the growing threats of climate change. The American …
Little Priest Tribal College in Winnebago says its student body and campus are growing - and so are its options for people to study in STEM fields…
Health and Wellness
By Nathalia Teixeira for Kent State News Lab.Broadcast version by Nadia Ramlagan reporting for the Kent State-Ohio News Connection Collaboration…
Maine's new Office of Affordable Health Care holds its first public hearing this week, and people are being strongly encouraged to participate…
The number of children locked behind bars in Alabama has declined, but their advocates said more needs to be done to create alternatives to …
This coming Saturday, North Dakotans will get a chance to see how election workers go to great lengths to ensure a safe and secure voting process…
Scientists at Purdue University have been experimenting to create adhesives designed to be easier on the environment. So many products from …