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17

Pheasants Forever message to those who want to save the pheasant: South Dakota is the state where pheasant hunting has to work. The first draft of the plan for pheasant recovery is being written at the moment by state leaders and other stakeholders in the sport.

If the plan does not go forward, or fails, there will be little chance to turnaround the 76% decline in the population which has occurred in the last decade.

Pheasants Forever is a big part of the recovery. The organisation, with 6000 members in 32 state chapters, has so far spent $508 million in its dedication to upland habitat conservation.

Pheasant populations seem to be closely linked to what is happening in agriculture. In 1978, there were an estimated 2.1 million pheasants. When crop prices dropped and production and land costs soared in the farm crisis this stifled agriculture. The 1985 farm bill introduced the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). This created secure income for landowners who took acres out of production for long-term conservation.

In the late 2000s, South Dakota had about 1.5 million CRP acres and the population had soared to 11.9 million by 2007.

Since then the population has reduced every year. This is partly because one third of the CRP land has been returned to production. Then the population has suffered again because of nesting failures due to weather.

In 2013, the numbers were recorded at 2.25 million birds and for the first time in two decades less than one million birds were killed by hunters.

Now the tables have turned again and crop prices which soared in the last decade are slowing down and it is becoming less profitable for farmers to keep their fields in production. The timing of this couldn’t be better for Pheasants Forever to use this and their new regional headquarters to push more conservation efforts.

Yet for this to happen, conversation and dialogue needs to occur with farmers on a one-on-one basis. Without this, pheasants may not see the recovery they need to survive in the state.

What are your ideas for pheasant population recovery? Are you hoping the new regional headquarters for pheasants forever can support the bird’s recovery?

Let us know in the comments below.

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