Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

May 1997


Published in Great Plains Research 7:1 (Spring 1997). Copyright © 1997 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


Settlement of the western United States resulted in clearing and degradation of many wooded areas. The loss of biodiversity and erosion of soil which followed produced a landscape which is still being restored. The first section of the paper reviews the settlement history of western South Dakota, describing the ecological effects of rapid population growth upon the landscape. The second part focuses on a smaller area, that of a family's ranch, which has undergone land management changes and woodland restoration since 1950. Studies which document an increase in woody species diversity and abundance, the population structure of trees, and the area occupied by woody vegetation are summarized. Sampling included measurements of woody vegetation in the field and of riparian and scarp woodland cover from 1956 and 1991 aerial photography.