The forces driving habitat loss…

Combines working wheat.
Combines working wheat.
While the decline of gamebird habitat in South Dakota and across the midwest is a tragic, there is another side of the story: The pinch many farmers are feeling today, and how this pinch drives them to plant crops on more and more of their land.

Gunnar Rundgren is an organic farmer with an interesting perspective on where this pinch comes from and where it’s leading America’s agricultural community. Here’s an excerpt from a piece he published on the website

Check it out, and click through to learn more what else is going on across America’s farmland.

Unlimited Competition Is Not Sustainable

By Gunnar Rundgren on 1st November 2013

Large farms now dominate crop production in the United States. Although most cropland was operated by farms with less than 600 crop acres in the early 1980s, today most cropland is on farms with at least 1,100 acres, and many farms are 5 and 10 times that size. Meanwhile, in 1987, the average dairy herd size was 80 cows; by 2007, it was 570 cows. The change in hogs was even more striking, from 1,200 hogs removed in a year to 30,000. These long-term shifts in farm size have been accompanied by greater specialization—beginning with a separation of livestock farming from crop farming in the latter half of the 20th century. For instance in 1900, there were dairy cows and hogs on three-fourth of the farms, while in 2005 only one farm in twenty had either hogs or dairy cows. This allowed crop farmers to devote more time to crop production, invest in crop production and gradually increase yields and acreage…

Read the entire piece now to learn more about how farming in America has changed, and how it needs to change to be sustainable into the future.


Don’t let wild America die: Save the Sage Grouse…

Greater Sage Grouse Breeding Areas
Greater Sage Grouse Breeding Areas
Greater Sage Grouse
Greater Sage Grouse

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:

In Montana Wilds, An Unlikely Alliance To Save The Sage Grouse

“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…”

Read the entire piece here , listen to the radio story, and check out the great slide show.

Check out this PDF –  Beginner’s Guide to Greater Sage Grouse – to learn more about Sage Grouse and how to conserve them.

Real bad news for South Dakota’s wild pheasants…

Bye, Bye, Bird Cover. From John Pollman's piece Big Changes on the Prairie
Bye, Bye, Bird Cover. From John Pollman’s piece Big Changes on the Prairie

Iowa used to have some of the best pheasant hunting in the world. Today, the bird’s numbers have collapsed to the second lowest number on record.

While the disappearance of these birds is caused by a number of factors, the biggest  is habitat loss. As more land goes under the plow, there are fewer places for the pheasants.

This same phenomenon is now underway in South Dakota. In his post Big Changes on the Prairie, writer John Pollmann talks about what he’s seeing in his home state and how it’s laying waste to what used to be one of the greatest places in the world to hunt wild birds. If you care about hunting wild birds, I encourage you to read the excerpt  below and click through to the rest of his piece.

Big Changes on the Prairie

“The majority of South Dakota lies covered in snow these days – welcome precipitation for a state that has been locked in a drought for more than a year.

I count myself among most South Dakotans who enjoy having snow around, as long as it stays in one place. Those moments are fleeting however, as our big prairie sky is almost always producing a big prairie wind. Give us all a day or two of blowing snow, and we soon begin to long for spring.

Invariably, when South Dakota is gripped by a frozen blast of cold and snow, my mind drifts to those pioneers who settled this land in the latter half of the 19th century. How did they make it through the winter on a treeless prairie? And when those first warm southerly breezes arrived in March, what possessed them to stay?

The U.S. Government was probably thinking the same thing when it doled out land to those individuals from around the world who took advantage of the Homestead Act and other land acts. Part of the agreement was that for a 160 acre claim, a person had to work the land, build a house and live on the homestead  for five years.”  Read the rest here.