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The crowd was awash with blaze orange—on hats, t-shirts, and even one necktie—at the grand opening of Pheasants Forever’s new regional headquarters in Brookings, S.D., earlier this year. Perhaps the neon hue was a bright indicator of just how eager folks are to stand united for conservation.
This cross-section of the community, made up of hunters, state and federal wildlife officials, conservation leaders, and more, is exactly who needs to be at the table to help Pheasants Forever preserve and enhance habitat in South Dakota. “We live in a different world today, and there are new challenges to conservation on private lands that we can’t solve the way we have before,” Pheasants Forever president and CEO Howard Vincent said at the event. “We have to think differently. We have to bring in new resources and partners. And we’re going to have to bring together the entire state of South Dakota—agriculture, transportation, tourism, and hunting interests as well as private landowners and state and federal agencies—for one reason: to deliver more conservation.”
Habitat loss brought Pheasants Forever to South Dakota, where nearly 2 million acres of grassland habitat have been lost since 2006, and collaborating with partners across the state is how the organization plans to reverse that trend. “We know we can’t do it alone,” says the group’s vice-president of governmental affairs, Dave Nomsen. “Partnerships are how conservation happens today. A group of stakeholders comes together to pool resources and knowledge in order to meet a common goal of keeping habitat on the ground.”
The time is right, Nomsen says, to bring new support to the issue by championing the role that habitat plays in maintaining a healthy landscape and benefits to the general public.
“The value of this work extends beyond heavy game bags,” Nomsen says. “And as an increasing amount of pressure is put on the land to produce food, fuel, and fiber, it is vitally important to that we communicate how the conservation programs that we work to implement—those that provide stream buffers, protect wetlands, and maintain large blocks of grasslands to benefit pheasants, quail, ducks, and other wildlife species—also help protect water resources, maintain healthy soils, and improve air quality for everyone. The key is to find a balance.”
Tom Kirschenmann, chief of terrestrial resources for South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks, believes that South Dakota’s private landowners are conservation’s most valuable partner in reaching that balance. “We couldn’t achieve any success in conservation without the commitment and cooperation of families who live on the ground, care for the ground,” Kirschenmann says. “And part of our job is connecting these landowners with the programs that will help them provide quality habitat for pheasants and other wildlife, while still benefitting their operation’s bottom line.”
There is perhaps no better example of this than the success of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) in the James River Valley of South Dakota, where 82,000-acres of marginal cropland have been enrolled and restored to grassland habitat. Kirschenmann says that nearly all CREP contracts, which vary in length from 10 to 15 years, were signed with the help of a Farm Bill biologist, a position made possible by Pheasants Forever in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks. Landowners who enroll ground in CREP receive a 40 percent higher rental rate than traditional Conservation Reserve Program contracts, and every acre enrolled in CREP is open year-round to hunting and fishing.
“The program is a win-win situation all the way around,” Kirschenmann says, “and it is all made possible by partnerships involving local landowners, state and federal agency funding, and the work of a private conservation organization.” Continuing to leverage the power of these partnerships will be crucial to finding solutions to the challenges facing conservation on private grounds in South Dakota, adds Pheasants Forever’s Nomsen. “And the key element we need to focus on together—Pheasants Forever, the state of South Dakota, landowners, and everyone else involved—is keeping quality habitat on the ground. Preserving the pheasant hunting culture of South Dakota depends on habitat.”
Author John Pollmann is a life-long bird hunter and freelance outdoor writer from South Dakota. A 2012 recipient of the John Madson Fellowship from the Outdoor Writers Association of America, Mr. Pollmann is a regular contributor to the Sioux Falls (SD) Argus Leader; provides a bi-monthly report on South Dakota for the Minnesota Outdoor News; and is the waterfowl columnist for the Aberdeen (SD) American News Outdoor Forum. Other writing credits include the pages of magazines for Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, and American Waterfowler.
In addition to outdoor writing, Mr. Pollmann holds an advanced degree in music and currently teaches at Pipestone Area School in Pipestone, MN. He is an active member of Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, Pheasants Forever, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and was named to the country’s first conservation pro-staff with Vanishing Paradise.
Mr. Pollmann lives in Dell Rapids, SD with his wife Amber, their son Miles, and a yellow Labrador named Murphy.
Last Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took a critical next step toward finalizing a clean water rule that clearly defines protections for headwater streams and wetlands important to trout, salmon, and waterfowl, while keeping farming practices exempt. Taking into account the genuine concerns of hunters, anglers, farmers, manufacturers, and business owners, who submitted more than one million public comments between April 2014 and November 2014, the agencies sent the most recent draft of the rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review. “The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership would like to commend the EPA and Army Corps for their continued commitment to this rulemaking process and to clarifying legislation that will benefit fish, wildlife, habitat, and anyone who values clean water,” says TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh.
Without any corrective action, 60 percent of stream miles and nesting habitat for the majority of the waterfowl in America are at risk of being polluted, compromised, or destroyed. “The seasonally-flowing streams clearly protected by the proposed rule are often where trout and salmon go to spawn and where juvenile fish are reared,” says Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited’s Vice President for Government Affairs. “All anglers benefit from the water quality and fish habitat provided by these streams, and we applaud the agencies for moving forward to restore protections to these incredibly important waters.”
As much as this review process is a behind-the-scenes step, it marks a milestone in the evolution of the clean water rule, especially for the growing coalition of organizations fighting to restore protection of our headwaters and wetlands. “Although the full draft hasn’t been released, from what we’ve seen, the comment period has had an impact and the final rule will be better than the proposal from last year,” says TRCP Center for Water Resources Director Jimmy Hague.
According to an April 6 blog post penned by U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy, the new draft of the rule will clarify how protected waters, like streams and wetlands, are significant, and how the agencies make this determination. It will also better define tributaries and protect farming practices. Special consideration has been given to “other waters”—including prairie potholes, the regional waters where 50 to 80 percent of North America’s duck production takes place—that qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act. “We’ve thought through ways to be more specific about the waters that are important to protect, instead of what we do now, which too often is for the Army Corps to go through a long, complicated, case by case process to decide whether waters are protected,” McCarthy and Darcy wrote. The TRCP was one of 185 sportsmen’s groups to address agency leaders in a letter of support for the rulemaking process on the heels of the Clean Water Act’s 42nd Anniversary in October 2014.
“Sportsmen have been actively engaged on this issue and will continue to combat efforts to derail the clean water rule,” says Fosburgh. “Anyone concerned with the rampant loss of wetlands, the health of spawning areas for trout and salmon, or the future of our hunting and fishing traditions should be pleased with the effort to restore protections for these resources.”
Under normal procedures, the Office of Management and Budget has at least 90 days to review the draft. It can recommend changes or leave the rule as proposed, at which point the rule can be finalized and put into effect. Read more about the original rule proposal, public feedback for the rule, and the letter of support from sportsmen’s groups across the country.
We started out with 32 of America’s game species. Now we have one.
After four weeks of voting, hunters and anglers from across the country have crowned the elk as the king of American fish and game. The elk steamrolled its early competition, trouncing Team Moose and Team Muley with 70% and 75% of the vote, respectively. After gaining momentum in an upset win over whitetail, the elk faithful built up enough steam to topple the wild turkey. In the end, the Cinderella run of the brook trout didn’t stand a chance and the elk took home the distinction as the 2015 Critter Madness Champion.
We’ve had many other champions along the way and you can check out some of our past winners here and here. We gave away great prizes in every round from a killer line of sponsors, including Remington, Yeti Coolers, Costa Sunglasses, Abu Garcia, Orvis, Berkley Fishing, and Buck Knives.
Missed out on the action? Check out the final results via the Bird’s Eye View tab on our Critter Madness page or read our recap of Round 1, 2, and 3 here.
Is there a species you want to see in the next Critter Madness? Leave your nominations in the comments section and you could be driving the cous deer bandwagon next year.
Thanks for taking part in Critter Madness and keep it locked here for more great ways to support quality places to hunt and fish.
From California to New York, from Montana to Mississippi, hunters and anglers are leading important efforts to improve the quality and quantity of our water resources. The most successful conservation efforts are locally driven with a broad base of support, including federal financial and technical assistance. They honor and respect the traditions of hunting, fishing, farming and ranching while protecting the resources we share.
In a report released on February 26, 2015, the TRCP showcases ten examples of collaborative, sportsmen-led efforts and the importance of federal funding that fuels them. The lessons sportsmen have learned executing these projects tell a convincing story about the need for responsible water management and adequate funding.
Here is lesson four from the Missouri River:
As St. Louis grew from a Midwestern frontier town to a city of 2.8 million, the area around the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers (known as the Confluence Region) lost 90 percent of its natural wetland habitat.
“Building on and developing this floodplain has enormous impacts on wildlife habitat and neighboring communities,” says Jim Blair, chairman of the Great Rivers Habitat Alliance. “Ill-fated attempts to continually manipulate rivers, solely for commercial interests, ignores the needs of wildlife and the cultural values sportsmen treasure greatly. As has always been the case, it is sportsmen who protect and work to preserve precious habitats and the species that rely on them. Sportsmen are important allies in protecting our resources, and we knew we had to get them involved to find a solution.”
To date, thanks to the enthusiasm and momentum of local landowners and hunters, by early 2015, the Partnership expects to secure 9,194 acres of protected private property via 28 easements through Ducks Unlimited. Thanks to matching funding from NAWCA, the Partnership will ultimately protect and enhance a total of 43,000 acres of public lands in the region.
The Missouri Confluence Conservation Partnership hopes to acquire an additional $2.1 million to protect and enhance another 15,000 acres of habitat. If secured, the money will be used for easements on what is regarded as “highly expensive potential real estate.”
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More