Exploration of this area began in 1743 by the French in search of a route to the Pacific. The U.S. acquired the region in 1803. The first permanent settlement was established in 1817. Settlement in South Dakota did not begin in earnest until the arrival of the railroad in 1873 and discovery of gold in 1874. Agitation for statehood developed; in 1888 the Republican Party adopted the statehood movement as a campaign issue, and in 1889 Congress passed an enabling act. The Dakotas were separated; South Dakota became a state with Pierre as capital.
Oak, maple, beech, birch, hickory, and willow are all represented in South Dakota’s forests while thickets of chokecherry, wild plum, gooseberry and currant are found in the eastern part of the state.
Familiar native mammals are the coyote, porcupine, raccoon, bobcat, buffalo, white-tailed and mule deer, and black-tailed prairie dog.
12 South Dakota animal species are now listed threatened or endangered, including the American burying beetle, Eskimo curlew, black-footed ferret, pallid sturgeon, least tern, and bald eagle.
Green is a movement, and South Dakota is continuing to work to increase the number of “green” energy efficient buildings. The state has made strides with its Green Building Initiative. It is defined as the practice of creating structures and using processes that are resource efficient and environmentally responsible throughout a building’s life cycle. Some of the features include: motion lighting; daylight sensitive lighting; recycled content; low-flow efficient water fixtures; high-performance heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems; LEED Certified buildings, etc.
The Nature Conservancy is working to conserve the native landscapes and species of South Dakota for people and nature. It works to protect important habitat across the state, from grasslands to wetlands, providing habitat for rare species of plants and animals.
Corporate houses and businesses are increasingly taking on the responsibility to mitigate business impact on the natural environment. Their goals include: reducing energy and water consumption; greening supply chain; expanding green constructions and improving green practices; educating and inspiring people and associates to support the environment; and addressing environmental challenges through innovative initiatives including rainforest protection and water conservation.