To the Editor:
The state’s pheasant population has been decreasing since 2008. We had 1.5 million acres in CRP dense nesting habitat in 2007, which has declined to about 900,000 acres now. At this yearly rate of decrease, S.D. pheasants will soon no longer exist. Many landowners now say that all they have now is pen-raised birds in their area.
I suggested earlier that sales tax could be increased by one-half percent, to fund a state CRP program, to save the population. This idea is not favored by anyone who wishes to be elected.
Now, we may have millions of dollars from the Internet sales tax, some of which could be used for this purpose. Some estimates are that pheasant hunters generate $500 million every year for the state’s coffers.
We’re 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 to take action now to increase residual nesting cover for the early nesters in large blocks of cover, to allows nests to be secure from predators.
It appears the new farm bill will only allow the cap on CRP to increase a couple of million dollars. As 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 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 3-to-5-year habitat programs are not ideal for game bird populations.
CRP cover shouldn’t be grazed or hayed, especially in drought years.