South Dakota Grasslands Initiative

South Dakota Grasslands Summit

Connecting around South Dakota’s most important resource: Our Grasslands

March 18 & 19, Oacoma, SD

Event Details

Mar 18-19 | Oacoma, SD


Expert Speakers


Schedule of Events

Healthy roots

More About Us

The South Dakota Grassland Initiative is a collaborative network of diverse organizations, agencies, and individuals who support grasslands as a means of retaining prairie ecosystems, both native and restored, while sustaining rural economies and healthy communities.

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Thanks to our Sponsors!

The South Dakota Grasslands Summit is a significant event for the landscape and communities of South Dakota, bringing together individuals from around the region to focus on the future of our grasslands and the sustainability of our rural communities that depend on them. Through generous sponsorships, we are excited to remove the hurdle of a registration fee for participants.   

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Schedule of Events

Monday, March 18

Opening Session: The Status of South Dakota's Grasslands
The Magic of the Grasslands- Dr. Barry Dunn
Central Grasslands Roadmap Overview and Future- Maggie Hanna
Session 1: Grassland Economics & Profitability
Considering Conservation in Ag Financing- Don Morgan
Cows VS Corn; Why Cows are Losing- Lyle Perman
Economics of Grazing Management Systems- Victor Tuschen

Panel:Increasing Profitability & The Grasslands- Ben Juelfs, Shaun Grassel, Don Morgan, Lyle Perman & Victor Tuschen
Session 2: Economics of a Changing Landscape
Increasing Recognition of the Value of Grasslands- Dirac Twidwell
What Does your Banker Need to Have?- David Koupal
Grasslands are the Solution to Environmental Issues - A Rancher’s Perspective- Dave Ollila 
Economics of Conservation and Grassland Impact- Anthony Bly
Afternoon Break
Session 3: Solutions for Grassland Conservation
Farm/Ranch Makeover. The Journey of Converting Farmland to Grassland- Brett Nix

Panel: Economics of Collaboration
- Dominc Harmon, Jessica Michalski, Jim Faulstich, Brett Nix
Where do we go from here?
Dakota Grasslands - Where Good Things Grow- Jeff Zimprich
Day One Closing
Graze, and Grow Connections: Social, Poster Session & Vendor Show

Schedule of Events

Tuesday, March 19

Optional Coffee with Summit Speakers
Welcome & group discussions
SD Grasslands Initiative Goals & Plans
Audience Q & A with Summit Speakers
10:15- 12:00
Supporting our Grasslands as Partners
Grassland Conservation & Policy leader's Forum
Meet the Event Speakers

Expert Speakers

President Barry H. Dunn

Barry H. Dunn became the 20th president of South Dakota State University in 2016. Prior to his presidency, Dunn served as the Dean for SDSU’s College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences and held many more professions in the agriculture field. Since his inauguration, Dunn has led several key initiatives for SDSU to include two university strategic plans, Imagine 2023 and Pathway to Premier 2030, to embrace SDSU’s core values and fulfill its mission to be a premier land-grant university.


Maggie Hanna

Maggie was born and raised on a cattle ranch near Hanover, Colorado. She serves as the director of the Central Grasslands Roadmap, in addition to managing her family's operation and enjoys spending her free time on the ranch with family. Her professional background also includes serving as the director of External Relations with Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT), the El Polar Foundation's Fellowship Program, and as an Americorps volunteer.

Don Morgan

A Wyoming native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in finance with an accounting minor from University of Wyoming and a master’s in accounting from the University of Phoenix. Morgan enjoys serving on the boards of local community groups and is a guest partner for the Soil Conservation District and the North Dakota Grazing Coalition to promote holistic agricultural management. Don is a father of four and business owner with his wife, Shanda. He enjoys family rodeo, hunting, and fishing activities

Lyle Perman

Lyle Perman is a 4th generation South Dakota rancher. He and his wife Garnet established Rock Hills Ranch near Lowry SD in 1976. Today the ranch is operated by Lyle and Garnet, their son, Luke and daughter in law, Naomi. Perman is a member of the SD Cattlemen’s Assn, Farm Bureau, National Cattlemens Beef Assn, SD Grassland Coalition and the SD Soil Health Coalition. He has held leadership positions on numerous boards and current serves as the president of the SD Ag Land Trust. Their family was honored to receive the 2014 SD Leopold Conservation Award and the 2014 NCBA National Environmental Stewardship Award. He is an active proponent of conservation, especially as it relates to grassland and the proud grandfather of eight grandchildren.

Victor Tuschen

Victor Tuschen is currently the state Agricultural Economist for South Dakota NRCS-USDA. He attended South Dakota State University from 2012-2018 majoring in Wildlife and Fisheries Science, Agriculture business, and minoring in Accounting. He started with NRCS in 2018 as a soil conservationist, since then he has worked as District conservationist in both South Dakota and Maine. The experience of District Conservationist and his background in economics lead him to this current role as an Economist.


Dirac Twidwell

Dirac Twidwell is a Professor and Rangeland Ecologist in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at the University of Nebraska and a Science Advisor for the USDA NRCS in the Great Plains. Dirac’s research – which includes more than 110 scientific papers – emphasizes how grasslands contribute to human well-being, and how simple transitions away from grassland vegetation are leading to increased wildfire disasters, broad-scale plant invasions, and unsustainable trends in livestock production and biological diversity. In the past year, he received multiple awards – including the Grassland Education Award from the US Forest Service and recognition as a “Guardian of the Grassland” from USDA NRCS. He serves on multiple advisory boards to advance science for conservation and education – including the USDA NRCS, the Central Grasslands Roadmap, and the Great Plains Fire Science Exchange.

David Koupal

David Koupal

David Koupal has spent his whole career involved in agriculture. He has had experience in agriculture production, both post and secondary agriculture education. Currently he is the Agrculture Manager/Loan Officer for Black Hills Federal Credit Union.

Dave Ollila

Dave Ollila, along with his family, ranch near Newell, SD raising sheep and cattle on native range, tame pastures and crop land. Dave retired in 2020 from a 35 year career in Agriculture Education and Sheep Extension. Dave currently contracts with the SD Soil Health Coalition as a soil health specialist assisting producers with integration of regenerative practices that support soil health and ranching communities.


Anthony Bly

Anthony serves South Dakota agriculture as a Soils Field Specialist with SDSU Extension. As part of his work, he is a co-director of the Every Acre Counts Program. Growing up on a farm in Minnehaha county he learned the rewards for hard work. Anthony is an SDSU alum with agronomy degrees in 88 (B.S.) and 92 (M.S.). He has been with SDSU over 32 years as a soil fertility and testing research associate to his current extension position.

Brett Nix

Brett and Lori Nix live on a grass-based ranch near Murdo, SD. They have seven children and ten grandchildren. Brett is a third generation rancher with the second and forth generations living on the ranch as well. Historically the ranch was very "traditional" growing small grain, row crops, and hay and raising commercial cows. In 2008, the Nix's, after self evaluation, concluded that they did not have a sustainable lifestyle, were not financially stable and were not being regenerative on their landscape. Taking a holistic approach, the Nix family set out on a journey to improve their lifestyle, achieve financial stability and regenerate their landscape by converting their farmland to grassland and becoming a grass-based business. Brett will be sharing his experiences during their transition and how to stay adaptable in today's world.

Ben Juelfs

Panelist Ben Juelfs will share about his custom grazing business on his family ranch. Ben, his dad, wife and two kids are involved in the operation. They practice managed grazing and have been improving infrastructure to better manage their grazing since he and his wife took over management of the place in 2020.

Shaun Grassel

Panelist Shaun Grassel serves as the Chief Executive Officer for BNGA. Shaun brings a wealth of experience, having worked as a wildlife biologist for the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe for nearly 25 years. Shaun also has worked for the Nez Perce Tribe Fisheries Program and the First Nations Development Institute. Shaun’s experience includes project development, fundraising, research, advocacy, and program administration. Shaun lives on the Lower Brule Indian Reservation where he spends his free time hunting, fishing, and raising cattle and native grasses for seed production. Shaun has two children, Michael and Zoe, who are members of the Nez Perce Tribe.

Jessica Michalski

Jessica Michalski

Panelist Jessica Michalski has been employed with the South Dakota Natural Resources Conservation Service for the past 20 years and currently serves as the Acting Assistant State Conservationist for Programs. Jessica and her husband Darin have a farm/ranch located in central Clark County, SD. The operation has been in the family for three generations and recently the fourth generation, son Cutler, has returned to assist in management and continued improvements. The Michalskis have worked to make their operation more resilient by implementing the following: seeding cropland back to native grasses, rotational grazing, no-till, cover crops, diverse crop rotations, changing calving dates and improved infrastructure. The changes implemented have enabled them to bring Cutler into the operation while improving profitability and quality of life. Darin and Jessica have two additional children, Kasey, 19 and Shay, 16.


Dominic Harmon

Panelist Dominic Harmon is a first generation rancher, who started his ranch in 2004 with 34 cows and about 800 acres. He now raises about 300 cows a year on about 3,000 acres using rotationally grazing and regenerative practices. Dominic puts an emphasis on bringing the prairie back to its mixed species of warm and cool, season, deep, rooted pastures and protecting wetlands and runoff areas. He is a strong believer that without healthy pastures it’s going to be hard to be profitable. On the panel, he will share how he works with partners for profitable conservation.


Jim Faulstich

Panelist Jim Faulstich live on Daybreak Ranch in Central South Dakota, along with his wife Carol. The ranch that Jim has spent his entire life on is primarily a cow calf operation but has several diverse enterprises including two hunting operations. He has been a longtime advocate for proper land use and grassland and wetlands. Jim is on several conservation boards in South Dakota including the South Dakota Grassland Coalition.


Jeff Zimprich

After retiring from a nearly 40 year career with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Jeff and his wife Kim, returned to the small family farm he grew up, near Brandon, SD. There, they are working hard to make the natural resources of the farm healthier. They are also using the farm as a place to educate youth and non-agricultural adults about their journey and conservation in general. Jeff also serves as a board member of the South Dakota Grassland Coalition.

2024 South Dakota Grasslands Summit Registration Form
Registration closes Monday, March 11th

Registration has closed. If you would like to attend and did not get registered, please contact Laura at 

Submit Your Poster

Do you have a poster to share about your grassland operation, something your conservation district is doing for grasslands, or perhaps a research project? Please help us plan by submitting your poster information.

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