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06

One of the biggest concerns for pheasant populations, and other upland birds, is the significant reduction in lands enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program. The main reason behind the decline in the reduction of enrolled land is the rise in farm crops making farming highly profitable again.

During the height of the CRP program, farmers were utilising other programs to improve the quality of the local habitat to encourage a variety of wildlife to live on the land.

However, lands across the country are in drastic decline. For instance, the number of acres enrolled in the CRP program in Montana has halved in the last seven years. In 2007, there were 3.5 million acres of land enrolled in the program, whereas in 2014 there were only 1.7 million acres.

In Washington, the decline has been less steep, with only 100,000 acres being lost from the program between 2012 and 2014. In other states, the decline in lands enrolled in the program has been approximately 12%.

However, there is some hope for the program. The wheat price which was a major force behind farmers abandoning the CRP program to find profit in productive fields is now half of its maximum price.

If this price holds, and more land is enrolled in the CRP program, then the continuing decline of pheasant populations and other upland birds could be halted. In the ten years up to 2013, South Dakota saw a 78% decrease in its pheasant population.

Although there was a population gain in 2014, it was not enough to recoup the losses that have taken place in the previous ten years. Of course it isn’t just habitat that plays a significant role for pheasant populations; the weather was also blamed for a decline in pheasant numbers. When the weather was warmer, more pheasants survived the winter.

Are you a farmer? Is any of your land enrolled in the CRP?

Let us know in the comments below.siy

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