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LINCOLN, Neb. - In response to declining pheasant populations statewide, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Harlan County Lake and Pheasants Forever have been working to reverse the trend through the Focus on Pheasants habitat improvement initiative.

The Focus on Pheasants initiative was designed in 2003 to restore high-quality pheasant habitat that benefits hunters. The program also educates landowners and other stakeholders about pheasant habitat needs.

Harlan County Lake property managed by the Corps was included in the program because of its potential for intensive pheasant management based on the size of the area, its high use by pheasant hunters and its history of good pheasant populations.

The lack of high-quality habitat, such as diverse nesting and brood rearing cover, is one of the factors limiting pheasants, quail and other grassland birds. Management activities such as prescribed burning, grassland disking, chemical treatment, grassland interseeding and tree removal are used to address those factors. These practices increase the quality and diversity of grassland plants and benefit many wildlife species.

While an area may be seen as unusable to wildlife due to haying, disking or prescribed burning, this disturbance is temporary. The benefits from resulting increase in diversity will last for many years. By rotating disturbances on a multiyear schedule, resource managers assure that the environment provides the optimal mix of cover types to enhance habitat quality, which should result in an increase of grassland bird populations.

Contact Focus on Pheasants Coordinator Jake Holt at 402-471-5413 to learn more about the program and to learn how landowners can implement these practices.

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