Habitat & Conservation  |  04/28/2022

Quality Cover Takes Time

Staff Photo

PF on the Landscape in Minnesota

Story by Will Gallman, Minnesota Farm Bill Biologist

“If you build it, they will come” is a common phrase when it comes to wildlife management. I would add this: The quality of what is built will determine the quality and quantity of what will come, and it takes time. 

High plant diversity is an important component of habitat quality because it caters to a wide variety of species and is utilized during all stages of their annual cycles. Plant diversity is essential for most grassland nesting birds, especially during the nesting season and brood rearing, which is the most important time for maintaining stable pheasant and waterfowl populations. 

Voluntary conservation programs have requirements for seed mixes that require some proportion of native grasses and native forbs (e.g., wildflowers), many containing 15 or more species. A seed tag with 25 species containing scientific names and various numbers can be daunting, but it’s not as scary as it looks.

In an agriculture-dominated landscape, native plantings can easily be associated with weeds and the need for excessive management. Native plants do take longer to establish, but with proper planting and timely (not excessive) management practices, we can establish diverse upland prairie habitat that many species require for survival. PF & QF Farm Bill biologists across the nation that are happy to provide seeding and management recommendations. It’s our job!

Photo by Pam Bruse - Will Gallman speaks about the importance of native plant diversity in habitats at a Learning Area Tour in Nobles County. Minnesota.
Education and outreach opportunities focused on the importance of plant diversity are important for all ages. Having field days with school-aged kids, some of whom may never leave town, is critical. One example is the annual learning area tour put on by Nobles County Soil and Water Conservation District. Having in-depth field days with the landowners that may be implementing these conservation practices on their property is important. In Minnesota we even have “Train the Trainer” field days open to NRCS, SWCD, and FSA staff, led by Minnesota PF Farm Bill biologists. 

We are never too young or old to learn and try new things!

This story originally appeared in the 2022 Spring Issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a Pheasants Forever member today!