Conservation  |  06/11/2015

Pheasants Forever Talks Conservation on Capitol Hill

Jim Inglis, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Governmental Affairs Representative, testified in front of the U.S. House of Representative’s Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry this morning.  Inglis was asked to our nation’s capital to discuss implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill’s conservation programs.  Requests like this to testify in front of our nations’ elected leaders are a tribute to our chapter’s habitat work in partnership with private landowners. 
Additionally, Inglis discussed our Farm Bill Biologist program. Over the last 12 years, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologists have worked on more than 148,000 habitat projects with landowners covering 5.1 million acres.  These projects involve the establishment of quality habitat that meet the life cycle needs of a wide variety of wildlife, not only pheasants and quail, but other species such as golden-winged warblers in Pennsylvania, lesser prairie chickens in the southern Great Plains, the iconic elk and sage grouse in the West, and monarch butterflies throughout the country. In addition to wildlife benefits, all Americans benefit from improved soil health and water quality by implementing these practices.  
“The goal of our Farm Bill biologist program is to assist landowners in finding profitable ways to implement conservation practices in harmony with agriculture,” Inglis explained to the committee.  
Inglis also reported on a wide variety of conservation practices within the Farm Bill with a focus on the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).  “CRP celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and farmers, ranchers, landowners and sportsmen will tell you that the program has been, and continues to be popular and productive. We support CRP’s ability to deliver a variety of conservation practices to landowners, both options of larger general CRP signup periods, and more targeted continuous practices are important for addressing landscape scale wildlife and natural resource concerns.”  
Inglis also reiterated our organization’s support for the recently announced CRP general signup to be held this December and the reallocation of 800,000 acres for popular continuous CRP practices.  
In conjunction with these remarks, Inglis explained the importance of designing conservation plans with an ecosystem approach.  “One of our organizations top priorities, along with many of our partners, is to maximize wildlife benefits, soil health, and water quality through voluntary federal, state and local conservation programs on as many acres of fields, farms, ranches and forestlands as possible. We feel there are several opportunities to increase the value of conservation program plantings for pollinators like honey bees and Monarch butterflies as well as a wide range of upland wildlife.”  
Inglis went on to explain the importance and need for improved USDA seed specifications in conservation programs.  “Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever encourage the use of a broader range of species adapted to a geographic area.  Both honey bees and monarch butterflies are known to receive increased benefits from highly diverse seeding mixtures.  The more species included in a seeding mixture, the more pollinator species the seeding mixture will benefit.  As an example, several state seeding specifications currently do not allow for the inclusion of critically important species for monarch butterflies like common milkweed and other species critical for monarch’s fall migration.  These diverse seeding mixtures are also critical as brood habitat for pheasants and quail.”
Inglis concluded his testimony by thanking our partners and calling for a new perspective on conservation, “I need to emphasize these successes wouldn’t be possible without numerous partnerships that we have with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, state fish and wildlife agencies, and other organizations. In closing, we often hear the term precision agriculture as the way of the future.  We would also advise also embracing precision conservation.  The voluntary, incentive based, conservation programs in the Farm Bill, clearly deliver those on-the-ground results.”