Kenneth McIlravy has been named the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department’s Habitat Partner of the Year for range-management practices that have benefited all types of wildlife on his Haakon County ranch.

McIlravy was honored at the March GFP Commission meeting for his commitment to a conservation-minded land ethic and providing public access to hunters through GFP’s Walk-In Area program for nearly 20 years.

McIlravy has resided his entire life on the family ranch, a 12,000-plus acre, grass-based operation. Over the years, he has witnessed changes in the landscape and wildlife habitat in the area. The changes have influenced his land ethic and ranch-management goals.

The ranch provides high-quality habitat to an array of species dependent on grassland, wetland, riparian and aquatic habitats in western South Dakota. McIlravy’s management practices began in earnest with the advent of the Conservation Reserve Program in the mid-1980s. He enrolled most of the farm ground into the program and converted it back to grassland, much of it native species adapted to the landscape and the climate.

He has participated in GFP’s Wildlife Partner’s Program to implement habitat fencing projects and maintain food plots for more than 10 years. He has worked with state and federal agencies to maintain and enhance ponds on the ranch to provide water to support rotational grazing and to diversify habitat. With more than 30 ponds on the property, surrounded by carefully managed grassland, the McIlravy Ranch provides quality breeding, nesting and brood-rearing habitat for a variety of ducks, geese, shorebirds and other wetland-dependent wildlife.

“As a long-standing GFP partner committed to sustainable ranch management, providing high-quality wildlife habitat and public hunting access, Kenneth McIlravy has few peers,” said Tim Olson, GFP senior biologist. “His keen awareness of the limitations of the West River grassland landscape and his willingness to manage the McIlravy Ranch within the bounds of nature are pretty unique.”

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