I don’t remember anything unusual about South Dakota’s 2007 pheasant opener- blue skies, great dogs, memories made with family & friends, and hundred and hundreds of wild pheasants. But even though I didn’t know it, 2007 was a turning point for the state. In that year, the amount of land set aside by South Dakota farmers in the federal government’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) peaked at 1,600,000 acres.
Today, South Dakota has around 1,000,000 acres in the CRP, and the state is on track to have just 600,000 acres in it by 2020. This loss is on top of the thousands of acres of shelter belts, wet areas, and other important wildlife regions that have gone under the plow in the last few years.
In an excellent five-part series, the Capital Journal in Pierre, SD, reports on what changes like these will mean for the state. Here’s part 3 of 5:
The clutch was touchy in the bus and the suspension almost nonexistent as a group of dove hunters scraped across the prairie into the middle of Darrel Reinke’s land northeast of Pierre.
The destination was a tract of land where grassland and grainfields stood side by side – good habitat for hunting doves, or, come the third weekend in October, pheasants. But as the sun sank low over the Great Plains that September day, the conversation turned somber. Some of the hunters on the bus worried that the sport they love, and South Dakota’s reputation as the pre-eminent state for upland game hunting, may be in jeopardy because habitat such as this is becoming harder to find…
If you care about South Dakota, read the entire piece now.