Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic presented by Federal Premium Ammunition drew 22,387 weekend attendees to the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center, the event’s inaugural run in Chicagoland. At the nation’s biggest gathering of upland wildlife conservationists, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced his department’s intention to hold upcoming signups for the federal Conservation Reserve Program, the country’s signature pheasant and quail habitat creator.
With 1,500 on hand Saturday night at the organization’s national banquet, Secretary Perdue stated farmers, ranchers and wildlife conservationists can expect general and continuous CRP signups by summer’s end. The signups are essential in working toward the new 27-million-acre national CRP – an increase of 3 million acres – established by the recently-passed federal Farm Bill. The Secretary also discussed one of the country’s newest conservation programs, the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP). Authored by Senator John Thune of South Dakota, SHIPP is a new voluntary program which, unlike the traditional CRP, requires a landowner commitment of only three to five years. Perdue called SHIPP, which is authorized and funded as a pilot program at 50,000 acres in the six Prairie Pothole region states, the sleeper program for wildlife in the new Farm Bill’s conservation title. Additionally, Secretary Perdue noted USDA will accept comments on rules and regulations for all conservation programs beginning February 26, a crucial step in the implementation of the Farm Bill.
Secretary Perdue’s policy message was followed by Steven Rinella of MeatEater television and podcast fame, who delivered the event’s keynote address. Rinella thanked Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever members and volunteers for their often-unheralded efforts in keeping wild places and spaces alive and brimming with wildlife.
“The 39 Pheasants Forever chapters, 25 Quail Forever chapters and 9,200 Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever members in Illinois paved the way for a spectacular inaugural Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic in the state,” said Howard Vincent, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever President and CEO, “From significant news from Secretary Perdue, a great message from the voice of the modern hunter, Steven Rinella, to the sponsors partners and conservation community, the wildlife habitat message gained more traction at the nation’s biggest upland event.”
In addition to providing significant economic impact for the host city and attending outdoor industry vendors, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever uses its National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic to recruit members for its habitat conservation mission. A total of 1,305 individuals signed up as Pheasants Forever or Quail Forever members, including 93 elite-level or higher lifetime memberships.
The event also delivered wildlife habitat benefits specific to Midwest farmers and ranchers. The Landowner Habitat Help Room at the show serviced 198 landowners to provide conservation guidance on 17,551 acres of land. Accompanied by a trained Pheasants Forever or Quail Forever biologist, landowners were educated on ways they can improve their acres for wildlife and even what local, state, and federal conservation programs they qualify for enrollment.
National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic combines a national consumer show, wildlife habitat seminar series, and family event complete with puppies, tractors, shotguns, and wildlife art. In fact, Pheasant Fest is the country’s largest event for upland hunters, sport dog owners, and wildlife habitat conservationists. Details for the 2020 National Pheasant & Quail Classic will be released soon.