By Austin Lang
Partnerships are vitally important in helping to execute the Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever habitat mission
Partnerships are what makes our world go ‘round here at Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. Whether it is partnerships with individual landowners or funding partners, our mission would not get far without them. Our precision ag and conservation specialists (PACS) are no exception to this. These positions are most successful when they are built on trust, and work closely partners who share our goals and vision. While these partnerships are different in nearly every state our PACS cover, we are united to deliver Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s mission: to conserve pheasants, quail, and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public access, education, and conservation advocacy.
The beauty of our precision ag and conservation program is its ability to create common ground to form these partnerships where the opportunity and interest may not have been there otherwise. Take for example, our PACS who work closely with local ag coops and agronomy offices. We work to break down the misconceptions that production ag and conservation are not compatible. We demonstrate there is room on every farm for conservation, and that it can be done without a sacrifice to farm profits. Instead, by working together to find acres of opportunity that make sense for both parties, we form mutually beneficial relationships with these offices and their customers. This helps ensure longevity within these partnerships, as well as long-term sustainability for the cooperators we work with.
Currently, there are 13 PACS throughout the U.S. The habitat and resource concerns we address, whether it be quail, pheasants, water quality or soil health varies across that footprint, and therefore partnerships, vary. Yet, all the PACS work increases upland habitat, encourages practices that provide a whole realm of ecosystem services, and improves profitability for farmers. A perfect example of this is Chaz Holt in Georgia, whose position is made possible through partnerships with Cotton Incorporated, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and American Society of Agronomy or Cristin Weber in South Dakota who partners with South Dakota State University, 2nd Century Habitat Fund, USDA-NRCS, SD Game Fish and Parks, and Purina. These positions cover vastly different geographies, with different agricultural landscapes, and as a result have very different partnerships. Yet the goals and outcomes, and means to achieve them, are quite similar.
Some partnerships are unique and specific to their regions, such as the Cotton Incorporated partnership in the southeast. Others, however, are quite common across most of the PACS positions. One of those includes Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s long-time partner Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The NRCS is an agency under the US Department of Agriculture that works to improve agriculture and habitat through conservation practices. The NRCS currently supports eight of our 13 PACS.
Mary Podoll, State Conservationist for NRCS in North Dakota, had this to say about the NRCS/PF partnership, “Successful partnerships are a key value to implementing conservation in a voluntary and upbeat way for our private lands farmers and ranchers. Healthy soil and a strong ecosystem that supports pheasant habitat, also ensures that the natural resources needed for agriculture are resilient during the extreme conditions that we are currently experiencing. The leadership of Pheasants Forever in North Dakota is innovative and advanced in the knowledge and tools that they provide.”
By working with a variety of partners across different landscapes, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever is able to explore opportunities, gain valuable insight, and stay innovative in how we deliver our mission. And while not all partnerships are equally visible, they are all vitally important in helping us continue our work as The Habitat Organization. In closing, the old adage of “team work makes the dream work” seems appropriate when considering the work we do alongside our partners in improving upland habitat.
Austin Lang is a Precision Ag & Conservation Specialist for Pheasants Forever in North Dakota