North America’s Grasslands need you now more than ever
By Howard K. Vincent, President and CEO
The time is now. Hunting season is upon us. Somewhere in your autumn are long walks through the grass for roosters. Sometimes, hunting solo — just you with a bird dog ahead — is magical. Other times, sharing the field with family or friends is the reward.
Either way, there is good time to think. So I ask you to consider this.
Grasslands are North America’s most endangered ecosystem. Period. Tallgrass, mixed or shortgrass prairie, sagebrush steppe, savanna and grazing lands are all under relentless pressure.
What Pheasants Forever and its partner organizations have done over the years to save our precious uplands — improve what grasslands we have on the landscape and make more of them, along with creating public-access places to hunt and recreate — has made a real difference.
But it is never enough. Especially now.
The wonderful places you walk for pheasants, quail and other upland birds this fall are in peril. More than 73 percent of America’s prairies have vanished. Grassland bird populations have declined more than 50 percent since 1966, and over 3 billion grassland birds have been lost. Populations of lesser prairie chickens and sage grouse teeter. Monarch butterflies struggle.
Those are just a blush of the many reasons Pheasants Forever is committed to getting a North American Grasslands Conservation Act signed into law. This act would work to conserve native grasslands and sagebrush steppe; improve grassland and rangeland health across the continent; increase carbon sequestration; provide a host of other environmental benefits such as improving water quality; and oh yes, make more places to hunt.
If you want a comparison for the kind of impact a national grasslands act could have, look to the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) which has been creating, protecting, restoring and enhancing wetland habitats since 1989.
NAWCA has done wonders for pheasants and other upland wildlife. A national grasslands act will add to the effect, and it will also help our nation’s ranchers. Grazing lands are critical for feeding our country and, when managed right with the help of a program like this, double as magnificently productive habitat for grassland wildlife.
We aren’t going it alone. Something of this magnitude needs the power of partnership. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s coalition of teammates includes, but is not limited to, the National Wildlife Federation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Land Trust Alliance, North American Grouse Partnership, National Deer Association and the Izaak Walton League of America.
Our other teammate is you. Getting any legislation passed is a long-term commitment and challenging process, even with an idea is as good as this. We will be asking for your voice — your emails, your phone calls, your impact — and that will make the difference. Make your voice heard.
In Washington D.C., timing is everything. This initiative could be accomplished in 2021, or it could be a years-long effort. But as we have never given up on anything in the past, we will not sway here. A national grasslands act is that important. Stay with us as a member, a supporter, a teammate, a voice for the grasslands that do not have one.
The uplands are calling. It is time for you to answer.
Learn more about our Call of the Uplands® campaign and how you can answer the call.
Howard K. Vincent has been involved with Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever as a volunteer and employee since shortly after the organization's inception. Over the years he has also served as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. He was appointed CEO in January 2000. A native of Duluth, Minnesota, and a graduate of the University of Minnesota - Duluth, Howard and his wife Wendy live in White Bear Lake, MN, where he enjoys chasing the wily ringneck with his two sons.
This story originally appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of Pheasants Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to see more great content in the pages of Pheasants Forever Journal, become a Pheasants Forever member today!