Losses of habitat as grasslands plowed mean trouble for hunters and wildlife

  • Article by: Doug Smith , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 28, 2013 - 11:47 PM

As farmers convert grasslands to crops, bird numbers in the region tumble.

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asdubiakSep. 28, 13 6:23 PM

Pheasants are way down this year and the future is grim imo. The dakotas glory days are most likely behind them as the CRP continues to be plowed up. As far as ducks go once the prairies dry up duck numbers will plummet and with no CRP to nest in the hens will be an easy dinner for skunks, foxes, etc.

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neilgdSep. 28, 13 8:30 PM

I think it's very unfortunate that so many acres are coming out of CRP but there's something a bit misleading about how it has been presented by the media. They make it sound as though these are all native, virgin grasslands that have never been farmed that are getting plowed up when, in fact, all of these acres that are coming out of CRP (or the vast majority anyway)were once corn and soybean fields just 10 years ago. I did a little research and found there were more cropland acres in Minnesota in the early 60's than there are today and look at how many pheasants we had then. To be sure, habitat is important, but by far the overriding factor has always been and will always be weather. I don't care if every acre of farmland was turned into grasslands, if you had a bad enough winter, you still wouldn't have any pheasants.

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EP1955gSep. 29, 13 9:38 AM

neilgd stats about crops in 60's may or not be correct, but for ground nesting birds its all about grass. Back in the 6o's I would bet that you would find that the types of crops are quite different than our monoculture of corn and soybeans. Oats, Wheat, Barley, Alfalfa etc. You had lots of fence rows because of small family farms. You had the Soil Bank program which is CRP today. Soil Bank program went away in the 60's and so did Pheasants and other ground nesting birds. Thanks Ethanol for devasting wildlife and the American taxpayer whose dollars who support it.

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a47mlbSep. 29, 1310:18 AM

Another problem hunters may face this fall is that all federal lands across the nation(wildlife refuges, WPA's, etc.) will be CLOSED during a potential shutdown. This isn't a blame game post, just information for those that use federal public lands.

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ruphinaSep. 29, 13 6:00 PM

How about a national property tax on land at the rate of $2000 and acre, but a provision that each acre, up to 1/16th of your land, set aside exclusively for wildlife and having the appropriate cover, goes tax free and takes another 15 acres with it off the tax roll? Put aside 40 acres out of your 640 acres and you are tax free. Bill G.

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neilgdSep. 29, 13 9:01 PM

EP1955g - For ground nesting birds such as the prairie chicken and other native birds, I agree, it's all about grass. For a non-native bird like the pheasant, it's about the weather. There's a reason there were no pheasants here before 1900.

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gimruisSep. 30, 13 9:26 AM

Pheasants can recover in a year or two from bad weather conditions but they can't recover if there's no habitat. The raw proof of that is in Iowa the past decade. Slowly but surely the Dakotas will follow suit.

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thefalconSep. 30, 13 6:38 PM

I agree with the Iowa comment. I think at the height of crp Iows shot over a million birds and last year it was 100,000. Weather plays a part but without cover pheasants are doomed.

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