By Chris Dorsey. Published www.SportingClassicsDaily.com, Jun 30, 2020.
“When last September’s chilling news from Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology hit press wires reporting a decline of some three billion birds across North America since the 1970s, there was one group in Chicago already making plans to raise awareness about the shocking problem and the little-known habitat that holds the key to continental bird populations.
“The prairie wetlands that stretch mostly from western Canada to North and South Dakota are as ecologically important to North America as the Amazon is to South America or the Serengeti is to Africa,” says Charles Potter, Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation President and CEO. “Yet few people know of this important and imperiled ecosystem. We’re going to change that.”…
Rough grouse populations have not been doing well in Pennsylvania for a while now, and other states are seeing similar drops in their grouse populations. Watch this video to see some of the thinking behind why this is going on.
The more I hear about temperatures rising across the globe, the more I worry about how these changes will impact the upland game birds we love to hunt. This piece fromProject Uplandtouches on how on what’s might happen to one species tosharp-tailed grouse. It’s worth checking — and keeping in mind when it’s to vote for local, state, and national politicians.
The author writes: “I reviewed several studies from prominent sharp-tailed grouse researchers and agency reports to get a clearer picture of this very real issue. I encourage you to keep an open mind and read through the whole article below before making any preliminary judgments.”
Bobwhite quail are not one of a America’s conservation success stories. Over the last 30-40 years, their populations have collapsed throughout the south and across the southwest. Fortunately, some people, and some state agencies and working hard to try and these birds back. I hope they’re successful.
“For many, the bobwhite quail is a symbol of their youth in the South. Small game is often where many cut their teeth in the hunting world. Adam Keith, wildlife consultant, ventures back into his past to take a journey into the public lands of Missouri with state biologist Frank L. Loncarich and Kyle Hedges.” WatchFighting Back – A Bobwhite Quail Film by Project Upland now.
If you care about the outdoors, this is a big deal. For generations now, massive tracts of the United States — especially in the west — have been wide open to you and me. This tradition of public access has guaranteed all of us a way to enjoy the wonders and of our great country.
Unfortunately, certain politicians are trying to sell us out by betraying this tradition and putting our access to millions of acres in jeopardy.
Unless you’re a corporate fat cat or billionaire with the dough to buy up huge chunks of ground, you could be cut out of what many of us consider to be a birthright. All it takes is some opportunistic politicians — and there are plenty of those around — and electorate that’s not paying attention.
To read more about what’s happening, check out the links and stories below.
Just a few years ago, bills to transfer federal lands to state and private ownership seemed like little more than symbolic protests from restless right-wing lawmakers. But as proponents of land transfers in Utah, Arizona, Montana, Idaho and other Western states gained political momentum and public support, hunting and fishing groups that oppose transfers began to take the proposals more seriously. And now, they are launching a remarkably unified PR-counterattack…
San FRANCISCO — A BATTLE is looming over America’s public lands.
It’s difficult to understand why, given decades of consistent, strong support from voters of both parties for protecting land, water and the thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic benefits these resources make possible.
Last week, the United States Senate voted 51 to 49 to support an amendment to a nonbinding budget resolution to sell or give away all federal lands other than the national parks and monuments.
If the measure is ever implemented, hundreds of millions of acres of national forests, rangelands, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas and historic sites will revert to the states or local governments or be auctioned off. These lands constitute much of what’s left of the nation’s natural and historical heritage.
This was bad enough. But it followed a 228-to-119 vote in the House of Representatives approving another nonbinding resolution that said “the federal estate is far too large” and voiced support for reducing it and “giving states and localities more control over the resources within their boundaries.” Doing so, the resolution added, “will lead to increased resource production and allow states and localities to take advantage of the benefits of increased economic activity.”
The measures, supported only by the Republicans who control both houses, were symbolic. But they laid down a marker that America’s public lands, long held in trust by the government for its people, may soon be up for grabs.
We’ll get a better sense of Congress’s commitment to conservation this year when it decides whether to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, created in 1965 and financed by fees paid by oil companies for offshore drilling. The program underwrites state and local park and recreation projects, conservation easements for ranches and farms, plus national parks, forests and wildlife refuges.
Nearly $17 billion has gone to those purposes over the years, including 41,000 state and local park and recreation projects, some of which my organization has helped put together. (Another $19 billion was diverted by Congress to other purposes.) The program expires Sept. 30 unless Congress keeps it alive.
Land protection has long been an issue for which voters of both parties have found common cause. Since 1988, some $71.7 billion has been authorized to conserve land in more than 1,800 state and local elections in 43 states. Last year, $13.2 billion was approved by voters in 35 initiatives around the country — the most in a single year in the 27 years my organization has tracked these initiatives and, in some cases, led them.
But this consensus is being ignored, and not just in the nation’s capital.
In November, for instance, 4.2 million Florida voters approved a state constitutional amendment to provide $22 billion over the next 20 years for land and water protection. But some legislative leaders want to use the money mostly for programs other than the land protections voters expected.
New Jersey voters also approved a constitutional amendment in November to dedicate corporate business tax revenue to preserve open space, farmland and historic places in the nation’s most densely populated state. Again, support was lopsided, with 65 percent of voters in favor. But Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, is now proposing to divert a quarter of the funds to purposes other than land acquisition and preservation.
And in Maine, money approved by voters for a popular state program called Land for Maine’s Future is now caught up in a political tussle. The program was founded in 1987 to conserve land and has protected 560,000 acres. It has enjoyed wide support; in 2012, new bond financing was approved by 60 percent of voters casting a ballot. But Gov. Paul R. LePage, a Republican, is refusing to spend about $11 million unless his plan to increase timber harvesting on state-owned lands is approved.
What’s often lost in these debates is that these public lands provide enormous economic benefits.
In 2013, the country’s national parks, wildlife refuges, monuments and other public lands had an estimated 407 million visits, which contributed $41 billion to the economy and helped to support 355,000 jobs, according to a report by the Department of the Interior last year.
It is difficult to understand the hostility of some elected officials these days to public lands, given the historical, bipartisan commitment to protecting our land and heritage. This summer, millions of Americans will get outdoors and enjoy these wise investments.
The writer Wallace Stegner saw “geographies of hope” in our remaining wild places, and wrote that visiting them is “good for us when we are young, because of the incomparable sanity it can bring, as vacation, and rest, into our insane lives.” And, he added, “it is important to us when we are old because it is there — important, that is, simply as an idea.”
Rather than selling off the lands we all own, or looking for other uses for the money approved at the ballot box for conservation, our leaders should listen to voters and find ways to protect more of the places that make America special.
Will the birds be back? That’s the big questions thousands of hunters will be asking as they head today for the opening of South Dakota’s 2014 pheasant hunting season.
Last year’s opener was a bust for a lot of people. Back-to-back years of poor rain and thousands of acres of loss CRP took their toll on gamebirds throughout the state. This raised concern across the state and throughout the country: Was South Dakota dying? It sure looked like it.
I hear much of SD has had plenty of rain this year, and early reports from the state say bird numbers are better (even though numbers are still way down from the 10-year average).
South Dakota used to be the best place in the world to hunt wild ringneck pheasants. I hope it regains that title this season — and holds onto it in the years to come.
BTW: If you’re heading out for the opener, please let me know how you do. Stay safe — and I hope you see a ton of birds.
My first trip to South Dakota was in 2000. I was stunned by the number of pheasants, grouse, and partridge I saw. In four hours of hunting we moved hundreds of wild birds – hundreds. I wonder if anyone will have a similar experience this fall.
Pheasant numbers are falling across South Dakota. While complex forces are behind this, the result is easy to understand: less habitat = less game. Across the upper mid west, thousands of acres of habitat are being dug up, dried out, and plowed under. Every time it happens, the future for wild gamebirds grows bleaker.
I’m not sure when The American Prospect published this piece, but I encourage you to click through and read all of it.
Across the northern plains, native grassland is being turned into farmland at a rate not seen since the 1920s. The environmental consequences could be disastrous.
“On a rainy Monday in mid-October, six middle-aged men in denim and camouflage sat bent over coffee mugs at the Java River Café, in Montevideo, Minnesota. With its home-baked muffins and free Wi-Fi, the Main Street establishment serves as communal living room for the town of 5,000, but the mood on that gray morning wasn’t particularly convivial. The state’s pheasant season had opened two days earlier, and the hunters gathered at the café for what should have been a brag fest were mostly shaking their heads. “You didn’t see anybody out there who was over the limit, did you?” a guy in a baseball cap asked with obvious sarcasm, to sad chuckles all around. The region’s game birds are in serious trouble.
The region’s game birds are in serious trouble. Driving across South Dakota the following afternoon with the radio on, I learned that Governor Dennis Daugaard had just announced an emergency pheasant-habitat summit. Last summer, the state’s Department of Game, Fish and Parks recorded a 64 percent decline in the number of pheasant broods from the already record low levels of 2012. Though a rainy nesting season and an early fall blizzard hadn’t helped matters, the region’s problems involve more than inclement weather—and extend far beyond the birds…”
Here’s an interesting piece from The Atlantic.com. A lot of hunters I know are serious about conservationist, and I’ve always thought that one of the best way to learn about an animal is to hunt it. It’s good to see that other people are recognizing that as well.
Responsible hunters have been at the forefront of conservation for over one hundred years now. Here’s some more information on the subject from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Stereotypes of gun-toting brutes and tree-hugging hippies miss the basic facts about who is protecting nature—and why.
“Fourteen years ago, I stood in the snow, struggling to digest what I had heard. A group of us, gathered to learn about monitoring and protecting wildlife habitat, had just discovered that our instructor—Sue Morse, founder of Keeping Track—was a deer hunter. I found the news disturbing. How could she work to safeguard the homes of animals she described as “neighbors” and then turn around and shoot one of them? I found it inconceivable that someone could be both an environmentalist and a hunter, a caretaker and a killer….”
To try and tackle this problem, South Dakota’s Governor Dennis Daugaard is holding a Governor’s Pheasant Habitat Summit on December 6, 2013 in Huron. Find out more about it below, and if you care about what’s happening in SD, please attend. Unless action is taken soon, South Dakota will loose many more acres of prime habitat. As it does, more and more pheasants — and the great times, cherished memories, and big dollars they bring — will disappear.
Governor’s Pheasant Habitat Summit
PIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced today that he will host a Pheasant Habitat Summit to discuss the future of pheasant habitat and hunting in South Dakota. The summit is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 6, at the Crossroads Convention Center in Huron.
“Pheasant hunting is extremely important to the culture and economic well-being of South Dakota,” Gov. Daugaard said. “South Dakota’s pheasant hunting experience is second to none and draws hunters from around the world. We want to do what we can now to ensure these opportunities for future generations.
The Governor’s Pheasant Habitat Summit will provide a forum for landowners, sportsmen, members of the tourism industry and other interested individuals to learn about the current state of pheasant habitat in South Dakota. The summit will include panel discussions and public input as a means to explore ways to maintain and enhance pheasant habitat.
The Governor’s Pheasant Summit is open to the public and pre-registration is required. Individuals may register online here. Information and registration is also available by calling the Game, Fish and Parks Department at 605.773.3387.
Even as South Dakota loses thousands of acres of pheasant cover (South Dakota is Dying), there iss some good news to report. The states CREP program is conserving some land upland birds and other wildlife. The total amount of acreage preserved is small, but every bit helps.
The final part of the Capital Journal’s excellent series on habit loss in South Dakota’s talks about the state’s CREP program , and points out some ways it is helping hunters and wildlife.
“Even as the total number of habitat acres continues to decline in South Dakota, there are success stories of programs helping to stem the tide of conversion of grassland back to crops.
The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks accepted the first enrollments in 2010 in a plan that makes it more attractive for producers in a designated area to keep land in the federal Conservation Reserve Program. The program, called CREP, or Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, adds a portion of state dollars to enhance the payments landowners receive.
And hunters who prefer the flat fields of the James River Valley are among those who benefit, since the program requires that landowners allow hunter/angler access as part of the deal…”
If you read this post from yesterday, you know that you’re paying for a federal program that’s having a devastating impact on pheasants and other animals across the midwest. The federal Crop Insurance Program encourages farmers to plant land they used to set aside for conservation, and as more acreage goes under the plow, there are less area where wildlife can thrive.
Part four of the Capital Journal’s excellent series on habit loss in South Dakota’s talks about this program, and lays out some pretty stunning info on what lies ahead for the state.
“When Lyle Perman was younger, in a different era in farm policy, he and his father converted some of their grassland into crops.
Perman, now a Walworth County rancher and crop insurance agent, recalls government agencies assisting them with designing drainage ditches and blowing holes in wetlands.
“You have to understand that this is the environment that a lot of us were raised in,” Perman said. “We were raised draining wetlands. Farming and erosion were just part of the business. You didn’t like it, but it was just part of what you did.”
That grassland conversion is part of what made South Dakota what it is today. But researchers, ranchers and conservation organizations have found that high commodity prices are driving today’s farmers to plow land that yesterday’s farmers deemed unsuitable for planting….”
If you read my post South Dakota is Dying, you know habit loss is leading to decline in pheasants and other wildlife species throughout the state. But here’s something you may not know: Crop Insurance Programs are behind some of this habitat loss. And who pays for these Crop Insurance Programs? You, me, and anyone else who pays taxes to the United States Federal Government.
A couple day ago, Bloomberg.com posted this eye-opening piece about the impact that Crop Insurance Programs are having across South Dakota and the western US. Check it out and learn more about how you’re paying to decimate wildlife numbers across America:
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.
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 read my post South Dakota is Dying and would like find out more about what’s happening in South Dakota, I suggest you read this excellent five-part series in the Capital Journal in Pierre, SD. It outlines what’s at stake, what’s changing across the state, and what may lie ahead for pheasant and other birds species in South Dakota. Here’s part 2 of 5:
The story of South Dakota since the 1862 Homestead Act has been in large part the story of converting grassland into cropland. It’s nothing new to sow wheat or corn where there once was grass. Drive along any East River highway and you’ll spot rocks plucked from beds of prairie grass or water draining from rich, dark soil.
But scientists studying satellite images of the western edge of the Corn Belt say something different is happening now…
Thank you to everyone who checked out my post South Dakota is Dying. It’s a sad story, but here’s the first step in doing something about it: Learn more about just what’s happening in SD and how this is hurting pheasants and all wild animal populations.
The Capital Journal in Pierre, SD, published an excellent five-part series on what is at stake, what is changing, and what may lie ahead for pheasant and other birds species across the state. If you care about what’s happening in South Dakota, I encourage you to check it out. Here’s part 1 of 5:
This is a sad story. It kicks me in the gut and makes me want to scream.
Right now, one of the greatest places on earth to hunt wild game birds is dying.
Across South Dakota, the double blow of drought and vanishing cover is wiping out the pheasants, sharptails, and huns. I’m sure it’s having the same impact on waterfowl and other wildlife, too.
This report confirms my fears. It’s a first-hand account from a friend and one of the most disheartening things I’ve read in a long time.
October 26, Miller, SD — The pheasants are gone. We have hunted three farms that total over 22 sections for more than 20 years. There were 8 of us this year, all experienced hunters and two very good dogs, my 5 year old Lab and a 7 year old Golden. In 4 days of hunting from noon until dark we killed a grand total of 12 pheasants. I shot 3 shells and killed two. Two of the hunters did not get one bird. We talked to a group of 10 hunters from Ohio and Indiana Wednesday who hunted for three hours Tuesday before they even saw one hen. We were skunked Wednesday! We hunted from noon until dark and saw only two roosters and five hens. We did not see one Sharptail or Chicken the entire week.
Until this year there were a total of 4 sections on the farms in CRP. They are all in crops now. Five years ago there were no soybeans anywhere due to the low moisture of the soil. This year with new genetic modified seeds, there were five sections planted in beans. Of course the harvested fields looked like a paved parking lot and there were no birds anywhere around them.
To give you a perspective, one of our group has kept a detailed hunting log of every hunt, every day, for the past 21 years. Every year until last year the group averaged over 13 birds per hunter every year. Five years ago, in the third week of the season, 12 of us killed 36 pheasants in less than two and a half hours on the same farms.
I doubt if I will ever go back to hunt pheasants in South Dakota. Every hunter that we talked with this week had very similar experiences. We did not talk to anyone who had a good hunt. They have done the same things that essentially destroyed the pheasant hunting in Iowa.
Like bison, grizzly bears, and elk, the Sage Grouse used to be seen in great numbers across a lot of America’s west. Today, that’s not true. As sage brush disappears from the western range, the birds are disappearing, too. While saving them seems sounds like a no-brainer, some farmers, ranchers, developers, and gas companies are saying no way.
But others are helping out. Check out this story from NPR to learn more about the issue:
“As its name implies, the sage grouse lives in sagebrush country, the rolling hills of knee-high scrub that’s the common backdrop in movie Westerns. Pristine sagebrush is disappearing, however, and so are the birds. Biologists want to protect the sage grouse, but without starting a 21st century range war over it. So they’ve undertaken a grand experiment in the American West, to keep the grouse happy, as well as cattle ranchers and the energy industry…”
Here’s a but more about it from Ducks Unlimited’s interview of Rep Noem and Re. Walz:
DU: You recently introduced the Protect Our Prairies Act. Tell us what it does and why it’s important.
Rep. Noem: Well it’s a great bill, everybody should vote for it. We’re hoping that what it essentially does it is treats our native prairie in a special manner to where it reduces the crop insurance coverage for the first four years that it’s farmed. It will encourage producers to really recognize that it is special land. Hopefully, it will keep more land in grass and also save our taxpayers about $200 million if it’s implemented nationwide.
Rep. Walz: It’s a smart bill and I’m grateful to the Congresswoman. Both of us, we share similar geography out there and while our producers are great stewards of the land, we also share that land with our sportsmen and making sure we have those resources available. I think that it’s just smart, it saves money and allows our producers to make the choices on their own land but also recognizes that need to preserve it for future generations.