PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota doesn’t allow mowing rights of way along state highways east of the Missouri River before July 10 in most instances. This summer, Governor Kristi Noem wants landowners reminded about the regulation, which is intended to protect pheasants and other wildlife that use ditches for nesting.

Noem has directed state Department of Transportation crews to suspend mowing until July 10 except in rural areas. She also wants conservation officers for the state Game, Fish and Parks Department and state Highway Patrol personnel to keep track and issue warnings.

Tony Leif is director for GFP’s Wildlife Division. He said the mowing ban is a state Transportation Commission rule.

“Specific regulatory authority for GFP officers is contained in state law and enforcement of this DOT rule is not among the laws and rules that our officers can enforce,” Leif said Wednesday.

“Our goal this year is to ensure that farmers and ranchers are aware of the date when state highway roadsides can be mowed for hay. GFP conservation officers will stop and visit with landowners who they see actively mowing state highway rights of way prior to July 10,” he continued.

“Our officers will reiterate the governor’s interest in promoting pheasant habitat and convey the message that this landowner outreach effort is being done in line with those efforts.  Where our officers find rights of way that have already been mowed, we will record the date and location of where the right of way mowing occurred.

“Governor Noem’s commitment to this effort is another great example of her broader commitment to improving habitat in South Dakota,” Leif said.

The Highway Patrol plans to issue warnings, according to Tony Mangan, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety. The Highway Patrol is a division of DPS.

“South Dakota Highway Patrol troopers are on the roadways every day, enforcing the laws of the state. If a trooper sees someone mowing in the ditch before July 10, they will both educate and warn the individual,” Colonel Rick Miller, superintendent of the Highway Patrol, said Wednesday.

Pheasant habitat is an emphasis of the new Noem administration.

“Roadside ditches provide valuable nesting cover for pheasants, especially in portions of the state with limited CRP land or other upland nesting habitat,” she said.

“Mowing too early can kill hens and newly hatched broods, and result in lower pheasant populations. It is critical that everyone refrains from mowing or haying until July 10.”