Minnesota: Working on 4-Year Plan to Boost Pheasant Numbers

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Citizen input from the Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Summit soon will be converted into a four-year action plan to increase and enhance grassland habitat on public and private lands.
 
Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr said agency staff and partner organizations are analyzing dozens of recommendations from the Dec. 13 summit in Marshall.
 
This first summit brought together Gov. Mark Dayton and 300-plus hunters, farmers and conservation experts, including those from Pheasants Forever. Together, they focused on pheasant habitat, pheasant biology and they spent much of the day identifying potential solutions to the plight of a bird whose numbers are declining at a significant rate.
 
Plan Coming in 2015
 
“Citizens talked. We listened. The next step is to convert words into actions,” Landwehr said.
 
Landwehr said citizen input will be used to develop a summary of the Pheasant Summit recommendations that will be shared with the public in mid-January.
 
“The focus will be about increasing bird numbers not government regulations,” Landwehr said. “Realistically, that means zeroing in on the interests and needs of private landowners as they own 95 percent of the property in the pheasant range.”
 
Landwehr said the action plan to be completed in 2015 will include recommendations for increasing the quality and quantity of public grasslands but “the inescapable truth is what happens on private farmland is what drives pheasant numbers because of the vastly higher proportion of acres in private ownership.”
 
Canary in the Coal Mine
 
The summit was emceed by Minnesota conservationist Ron Schara, who termed the pheasant the proverbial canary in a coal mine.
 
“As pheasant numbers go, so go our bobolinks, butterflies, pollinators and more,” he said.
 
“Finding strategies that work for both land and people is key,” said John Jaschke, executive director of the Board of Water and Soil Resources. “Projects and practices to achieve clean water or soil improvement can help the pheasant population. Site selection and design can be adjusted to build habitat into watershed protection projects. Grassland buffers are one such example of a multi-benefit practice that was highlighted at the summit.”

-Anthony Hauck is Pheasants Forever’s online editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.