Dakota Farmer

8 Recommendations To Improve Pheasant Habitat

Governor's Pheasant Habitat Work Group lists eight main things that could be done to increase habitat for pheasants

November 6, 2014

5 Min Read

The South Dakota Governor's Pheasant Habitat Work Group recently made eight primary recommendations to improve grassland habitat for pheasants:

Pete Bauman, SDSU Extension range management specialist, provided the following summary:

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1. Facilitate greater collaboration among conservation partners to better utilize available resources for improving habitat management. The working group calls for improved coordination, implementation, and efficiency among state and federal conservation agencies when developing, marketing, and delivering conservation programs. One of the primary features of this recommendation is a centralized website where landowners could go for habitat improvement and management information. A second possibility discussed here is the creation of a digital mapping tool that would allow producers to evaluate the suitability of their farm or ranch for wildlife habitat. If such recommendations are enacted, producers will be able to improve their conservation planning and align themselves to improve eligibility for conservation programs. In addition, having habitat information readily available in a simple-access format could make landowners more efficient through self-planning and reduction of inputs (time, energy) when making conservation plans….especially where stacked enterprises such as livestock production and hunting co-exist.

2. Establish a long-term, dedicated conservation fund and appropriate $1 million in one-time funds to bolster private fundraising efforts. This recommendation highlights the possible benefits of dedicated dollars toward habitat and wildlife conservation. The report calls for a start-up of $1 million in public funding while listing several options for sustained funding sources including recommendations on management and administration. If implemented, a dedicated fund could provide wide-spread opportunity to develop new or innovative private/public partnerships or projects that benefit wildlife across ownership lines. In addition, the potential for a host of various game and non-game habitat benefits could be realized through enhancement of existing programs if adequate funding were provided.

3. Develop and implement the South Dakota Conservation Certification Program. This recommendation would lay the foundation for a voluntary program that recognizes and encourages conservation stewardship efforts of South Dakota producers. If implemented, landowners receiving Conservation Certification status might benefit from preferences when applying for various conservation programs.

4. Create a multi-part "Habitat Pays" education and promotion series for inclusion in a variety of existing publications. This recommendation features the concept of an educational and media promotional effort aimed at highlighting the importance that pheasants and pheasant hunting have in rural communities while challenging those industries that directly or indirectly benefit from pheasant habitat to understand the impacts of their industries and possibly entice financial support for other recommendations (see #2 above). Education of the masses is challenging. Such a campaign may feature real-life examples as well as provide promotional opportunities for individual businesses. Farms and ranches with pheasant hunting interests would be well positioned to promote their services through this type of recommendation.

5. Revisit the current practices pertaining to mowing public rights-of-way. This recommendation simply recognizes that while the majority of pheasant habitat occurs on private lands, public land habitat opportunities may not be fully realized, including road ditches. Alternative management of road ditches can provide yet another improved opportunity for pheasants to nest and raise broods successfully. It is important to recognize that the Work Group is not suggesting radical changes to ditch mowing. Rather, the recommendation suggests subtle changes in mowing timing and intensity could improve nest success while retaining landowner opportunity to harvest road ditches.

6. Petition the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency (USDA-RMA) to include all South Dakota counties as eligible for crop insurance coverage on winter wheat. While not preferred habitat when compared to perennial grasslands, winter wheat can serve as an important nesting areas for a variety of upland birds, including pheasants. Currently, crop insurance is not available on winter wheat in 24 east river counties due to outdated information on winter wheat hardiness. If USDA-RMA would support winter wheat insurance in the eastern regions of South Dakota, producers would be afforded the opportunity to expand production of a relatively habitat friendly alternative cash crop with a reasonable insurance safety net.

7. Encourage the South Dakota Office of School and Public Lands to include a land management plan as a condition for securing a lease. While not a central component to pheasant habitat range, as much of this land occurs in the western tier counties, State owned School and Public Lands (SPL) do harbor significant potential for a host of wildlife. This recommendation outlines the benefits of requiring producers to provide a land management plan prior to being granted a lease on State School and Public Lands. In addition, the recommendation continues with support of current policies that do not allow conversion of SPL grasslands to cropland. If adopted, this recommendation may provide an opportunity for producers to more fairly compete for SPL leases. Producers willing to improve management or expand grassland acres and/or restore SPL lands may have additional opportunities under certain circumstances.

8. Support Congressional efforts to raise the federal Duck Stamp from $15 to $25. Federal duck stamp revenue raises millions of dollars annually for waterfowl habitat conservation, including wildlife refuges and voluntary conservation easements. When duck nesting habitat is conserved, many other species benefit, including pheasants. Additional revenue in the federal coffers for duck nesting habitat will improve opportunities for South Dakota's grassland producers in particular. Programs such as rangeland and pasture fence cost share, water development, and grassland/wetland easements are often funded through a combination of duck stamp revenue and other funds. Nearly doubling the duck stamp fee, while likely not deterring duck hunters from participating in the hunting season, will have a dramatic positive effect on the options landowners will have to partner with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on conservation programs, including planned grazing management.

Source: SDSU Extension

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