Sioux Falls, SD – U.S. House candidate Paula Hawks responded to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department’s announcement of a 20% drop in pheasant numbers in their annual population survey. Officials linked the decline in pheasant numbers to the loss of habitat that occurred with the decrease in the Conservation Reserve Program.
“The SD GFP survey results prove we need stronger representation in Congress that will fight for CRP acres in the next Farm Bill. CRP provides critical cover and nesting for wildlife. When wildlife numbers go down, it risks upsetting one of our primary industries—tourism. I will make CRP a priority in the next Farm Bill to both preserve our wildlife and help our producers weather a period of prolonged low commodity prices,” Hawks said.
As reported by the Capital Journal, despite optimal pheasant conditions in northeast South Dakota, the survey found a 43% drop in the Aberdeen area. “That was really unexpected,” [Senior upland biologist Travis] Runia said. “If the population can’t stay stable under those conditions you would think there would be something else going on.”
The Capital Journal concluded, “Grassland habitat, which is critical for nesting pheasants, has been disappearing from the eastern side of the state pretty quickly for almost 10 years. The amount of land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, for example, has declined to about 945,000 acres from a peak in 2007 of about 1.5 million acres. That statistic is a big reason the state’s pheasant population has consistently been below its 10-year average, Runia said. Since about 2008 the state’s pheasant harvest rate has slipped from it. “Obviously these weather conditions get a lot of attention every year but the habitat is what determines populations in the long-term,” he said.
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