LETTER: A way to boost the SD pheasant population
To the Editor:
The South Dakota pheasant population has been decreasing since 2008. We had 1.5 million acres of CRP dense nesting habitat in 2007 declining to only about 900,000 acres. At this yearly rate of population decrease SD pheasants will soon no longer exist. Many landowners now say that all they now have is pen-released birds in their areas.
I earlier suggested we should raise the sales tax by one-half of one percent to fund a state CRP program to save our SD pheasant population. The latter idea is not favored by anyone who currently wishes to be elected. Now we will soon have millions of dollars from internet sales tax that we could use some of for this purpose. Some estimates are that pheasant hunters generate $500 million every year for our state coffers. South Dakota is now the last state to host large numbers of non-resident pheasant hunters. If we want large numbers of these birds to hunt in the future, we need some action now to increase residual nesting cover for early nesters in large blocks of cover that will allow nests to be secure from predators.
It appears that the new farm bill will only allow the cap on CRP to increase a couple of million dollars. Since this program is active in several states, we will not get enough for our share to reach the 1.5 million acres we need to secure a high pheasant population. Our state must take on this program since we cannot ever count on Federal programs to have much interest in our state pheasants. Even if we act now remember that it takes several years for adequate cover to be established after it is planted. That is the reason why three to five year habitat programs are not ideal for game bird populations. CRP cover should never be grazed or hayed especially in drought years.