Pheasant Plan Report Card: More To Be Done

A yellow Lab holds a rooster pheasant in western Minnesota. (Sam Cook photo)
A yellow Lab holds a rooster pheasant in western Minnesota. (Sam Cook photo)

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has issued itself a “report card” on actions to improve grassland pheasant habitat and pheasant populations, the agency announced today. The actions, which grew out of Gov. Mark Dayton’s 2014 Pheasant Summit, are part of the DNR’s subsequent Pheasant Summit Action Plan.

While the plan is off to a positive start, the agency said, much of the work remains ahead.

“The report card highlights positive action and trends on a number of specific items that  improve pheasant populations and pheasant hunting,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “However, as the 2016 legislative session gets started, we are at a critical fork in the road for the pheasant plan that may decide whether we make meaningful progress or head on a downward trend.”

Legislators have several pheasant plan action items on their agenda for consideration, including Outdoor Heritage Fund recommendations, which support pheasant habitat protection and enhancement; Gov. Mark Dayton’s bonding proposal, which would increase funding for public land acquisition as well as provide funding for private land conservation through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP); and legislation that boosts the amount of roadside habitat available.

The report card is available here.

“Pheasant populations are an indicator of the health of the landscape,” Kevin Lines, DNR pheasant action plan coordinator, said in a statement. “Pheasant habitat is important not only for hunters, but also for all Minnesotans who care about clean water, healthy soils and our state’s natural heritage.”

While improving pheasant habitat and providing quality hunting opportunity require public land acquisitions from willing sellers, more than 95 percent of the pheasant range is in private ownership. For that reason, private lands conservation programs, such as CREP, are an important component of success.