Marvin woman wins Conservationist of the Year

In 2013, Tracy Rosenberg bought nearly a thousand acres of land near Marvin to restore and reconstruct Northern Tallgrass Prairie.
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 4:43 PM CDT
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MARVIN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - In 2013, Tracy Rosenberg bought nearly a thousand acres of land near Marvin to restore and reconstruct Northern Tallgrass Prairie. Recently, she was named Conservationist of the Year for her efforts.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, just 1% of tallgrass prairie remains intact nationwide.

Rosenberg found her love for Northern Tallgrass Prairie while watching the ecosystem disappear in her home state of Iowa.

”Iowa, at one point, had 85% Northern Tallgrass Prairie, but by the time I graduated from high school, it was down to less than one tenth of 1%,” said Rosenberg.

In 2012, she found out that the Blue Cloud Abbey Monastery near Marvin was selling their acres of tallgrass prairie, so she packed up and moved to South Dakota. She rented the land for a year before officially purchasing it.

”It was just one of those things, very serendipitous moment, where I didn’t even know this area, hadn’t ever been here before,” said Rosenberg.

Now, she owns some of the last acres of South Dakota Northern Tallgrass Prairie that has never been plowed.

“That means it’s never been cropped. It’s never been tilled or planted for a mono-culture crop. If you do break that sod, you are disrupting everything underneath, and so, even though you plant it back, it’s not the same. I used to say that it would take 100 years to restore broken sod, and I was wrong. You can never get it back. So, it’s a matter of trying to preserve what’s left,” said Rosenberg.

Preserving the grassland also means preserving wildlife, like the endangered Dakota Skipper butterfly, which has appeared on Rosenberg’s land.

When Rosenberg bought the land, she says it was in rough shape. Over the last decade, she has spent her days restoring and reconstructing it. She funds her operation by serving as a Custom Grazing Operator for her neighbor’s cattle. She allows the cattle to graze in over 40 cells of her land, moving them almost every day to avoid overgrazing.

“I feel like this is like the intensive care unit right now. We’re really treating everything, giving all the attention to the land. The land is in the hospital. It needs to recover before we could ever start to take back,” said Rosenberg.

Rosenberg has offered educational tours to groups of all ages, from elementary science classes to college students and beyond. She hopes educating others on the decline of Northern Tallgrass Prairie will lead to more conservation efforts in the future.

In June, Rosenberg was awarded the Conservationist of the Year Award for her work from the National Organization of Professional Women in Natural Resources Conservation Service.

”I believe I was chosen because I’m working with an endangered ecosystem, and I think that mattered,” said Rosenberg.

As for the next decade, Rosenberg says she hopes to continue to restore the land and pass it on to someone with the same passion.

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