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Study confirms program increases pheasant population

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced the results of a study that demonstrates land enrolled under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is associated with increased numbers of ring-necked pheasants. The report estimates a 22-percent increase in counts of ringnecked pheasants for every four percent increase in CRP enrolled acres within large units of pheasant habitat.

"It's gratifying to see research validating what we've long known that there are tremendous environmental benefits from CRP along with the benefits to producers," said Johanns. "This is great news for CRP participants, hunters, bird watchers, researchers and conservationists nationwide" Johanns announced the release of the report at the 2006 Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) Forum, in Lincoln Neb. The forum brings together government and non-government professionals to share information and guide implementation of CREP, which is a component of CRP.

Researchers from Western EcoSystems Technology, (West), in Cheyenne, Wyo., conducted the pheasant study and prepared the report. The researchers evaluated CRP's impact on ring-necked pheasants by observing Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) counts along 388 nationwide BBS routes. BBS counts are conducted in June during the peak of nesting season, except for desert regions and some

southern states where counts are conducted in May. Consistent methodology, observer expertise, yearly visits to the same spots and suitable weather conditions produce comparable data over time.

Johanns previously announced plans for the pheasant study in March 2005, along with two other wildlife population research studies. In the second study, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service examines the effect of CRP on Prairie Pothole Region upland duck populations. In another study, Mississippi State University examines the effect of CRP on northern bobwhite quail.

The pheasant study is the first of the three research projects to be completed. The other studies will be finalized by the

end of this year. All of the studies quantify CRP accomplishments and improve program accountability.

Wildlife habitat is one of the many benefits provided by CRP, an effective private-lands conservation program, with more than 36 million acres enrolled. Through CRP, farmers and ranchers plant grasses and trees in crop fields and along streams. The plantings stop soil and nutrients from running into regional waterways and impacting water quality. This year marks the 20th anniversary of CRP. The program has amassed a wealth of benefits for the United States, including preventing 450 million tons of soil from eroding each year and restoring 1.8 million wetland acres.

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