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It is not often that a group of such diversity would be involved in such a harmonious event. However, the group established after Gov. Daugaard’s pheasant habitat summit seems to have established solidarity that is set to become a valuable foundation.

The 13 member group, that comprises of farmers, ranchers, conservationists and sportsmen, are charged with developing a strategy to help stabilize and increase the South Dakota pheasant population. They are expected to give their report in the late summer or early fall.

It is no secret that there has been a sharp decline in pheasant populations brought on by the change in habitat. In the past year, the population has shrunk by approximately 64% and over the past 10 years, the population seems to have decreased an average of 76%. These numbers are obviously not sustainable and therefore there are high hopes and expectations for the group.

For some of the group members, the challenge is seen as primarily financial. Their solution would be to secure a stable and sufficiently large revenue, that can facilitate the replacement from the loss of 500,000 acres of federal CRP grassland. Over the past decade, this land has been converted to cropland which has a higher value.

Others clearly feel that farmers should be given more incentive to leave land to become a suitable habitat for wildlife, including pheasants. However, current efforts in Congress to pass such a farm bill have stalled, with concerns that the money that was previously available for such a venture, are simply not available now.

John Cooper, South Dakota Game Fish and Parks commissioner and retired GF&P secretary, has clearly stated that an additional $7 to $10 million needs to be found from somewhere and should be utilized in improving habitats that are adjacent to waterways.

Cooper further suggests that a dedicated sales tax might be able to raise such funds. He suggests that the funds shouldn’t come from the hunters and anglers, who already contribute significantly with federal taxes on guns, ammunition and licenses. Instead the further revenue should be sought from retailers who generate $200 million revenue annually from South Dakota pheasant hunting and yet don’t contribute proportionately.

What do you think? Should retailers be taxed further to support pheasant populations?

Let us know in the comments below.

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