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A view of the Big Sioux River at the (appropriately named) Big Sioux Recreation Area from the bench on a hill at the Valley of the Giants hiking trail outside Brandon, South Dakota. From,_Brandon,_South_Dakota.jpg

South Dakota considers buffer strip bill

PIERRE, S.D. — A bill in the South Dakota legislature would give landowners a tax break for keeping riparian buffer strips along streams, rivers and lakes.

Senate Bill 66 would define a riparian buffer strip and set out that such a buffer strip would be assessed at 60 percent of its agricultural income value. It has passed the state Senate unanimously and is under consideration in the House.

Under the bill, riparian buffer strips eligible for the tax break would be 50 feet wide along a river, stream or lake. The perennial vegetation there would not be able to be mowed before July 10, and four inches of vegetative cover would have to be maintained.

During a Feb. 2 Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee hearing, Hunter Roberts, a policy advisor for Gov. Dennis Daugaard, said riparian buffer strips help shade bodies of water and protect water from the effects of adjacent land use.

"Buffer strips are a proven winner when it comes to water quality," he said. "Good water quality benefits all of us."

Mike Houdyshell with the state Department of Revenue said land along 575 lakes and 11,000 miles of streams in South Dakota would be eligible for the program.

South Dakota agriculture and conservation groups have come out in support of the bill. They have noted the bill makes planting riparian buffer strips voluntary and that obtaining the tax break would be an annual, landowner-initiated process.

The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee unanimously passed the bill earlier this month, and the full Senate passed it on Feb. 8. The House Taxation Committee on Thursday unanimously passed the bill.