posted on March 15, 2005 00:00
The Land of 10,000 Lakes Plans to be the Land of 3 Million Ringnecks
Minnesota DNR Establishes Long Range Plan for Increasing Pheasant Population
St. Paul, Minn. – March 15, 2005 – Today, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) announced a long range plan for Minnesota’s ring-necked pheasant population. The plan, which Pheasants Forever (PF) wildlife biologists helped develop, focuses on the addition of 1.56 million acres of habitat. Those additional habitat acres are projected to translate into a fall population of 3 million pheasants. A population of that size should yield an average hunting harvest of 750,000 roosters for 175,000 hunters who would also positively influence the economy of rural Minnesota.
To accomplish the plan, the MN DNR estimates a cost of $1.6 billion over a 22-year period for the additional acres of habitat. Those dollars would come from the continuation and expansion of existing state and federal conservation programs; including, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM), and state Wildlife Management Area land acquisitions. The estimates also include the development of new programs like the proposed dedicated sales tax legislation and the creation of a new Minnesota Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). With proper funding for additional habitat, the MN DNR estimates that by the year 2025, Minnesota’s pheasant harvest could average 750,000 roosters, which would double the average harvest during 1987-2000. To view the MN DNR’s long range plan, log onto: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/pheasant/index.html.
“The key to the long range success of Minnesota’s pheasant population is the continuation and expansion of farmland conservation programs that promote private lands conservation and put habitat acres on the ground,” explained Matt Holland, PF’s director of conservation programs for Minnesota and an advisor to the MN DNR’s Farmland Wildlife Committee that developed Minnesota’s long range pheasant plan. “This plan is built on programs like CRP and CREP. These conservation programs have proven their value in growing roosters, as well as improving our water quality, preventing soil erosion, and helping rural Minnesota economies.”
The MN DNR says higher pheasant populations will serve as an indicator of a healthier agricultural ecosystem with prime farmlands under crop production and environmentally-sensitive lands carefully managed to conserve soil, water, and a broad range of game and non-game wildlife. A self-sustaining Minnesota pheasant population was first established between 1916 and 1918. From there, the population increased to over 4 million with an average annual harvest of 1 million roosters. Those levels were sustained until the population crashed in 1965 as a result of a dramatic change in land use leading to huge habitat losses. Since then, Minnesota’s pheasant population has never fully recovered. In 1982, PF was created in St. Paul as a response to the continued decline of Minnesota’s pheasant population. The organization helped pass a $5.00 pheasant stamp through the state legislature in 1983, which resulted in the addition of about $500,000 in funds for pheasant management annually. Last year, with PF’s help, the pheasant stamp was increased to $7.50, bringing in an additional $250,000 per year.
“Pheasants Forever is extremely excited about this long range plan for Minnesota, our home state, and we are very pleased with the Minnesota DNR’s leadership in taking this important step,” added Holland. “Minnesota once supported over 4 million pheasants. With proper funding, this plan outlines what it’s going to take to bring back Minnesota’s glory days. PF looks forward to working with the Minnesota DNR and their partners to implement this plan and make those glory days a reality.”
Today, PF continues to be based in St. Paul, but now has 110,000 members in 600 chapters across the country. There are 22,000 Minnesota PF members in 64 chapters, making Minnesota the organization’s largest state. In the organization’s 22 years, Minnesota chapters have spent over $20 million on 20,000 habitat projects, which have benefited 160,000 acres across the state. Minnesota chapters have also participated in 268 land acquisitions creating 22,351 acres of land now open to public hunting. PF land acquisitions are transferred to the appropriate state and/or federal agency and opened to the public.