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rundrave

Crisis looms in pheasant country

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This article was written in todays Argusleader:

Crisis looms in pheasant country

full-6428-27034-tile.jpg

The loss of Conservation Reserve Program acres, native grassland and heavy wetland cover due to drainage (above) is putting a strain on South Dakota's pheasant habitat and the future of

Quote:
Written by

John Pollmann

From a distance, the winding stretch of cattails didn’t look like much. Just another slough nestled between rolling hills of corn and soybeans.

But come the first flakes of snow and nights of single-digit cold, that oasis of thick cover was a lifesaver for the pheasants that roamed the countryside near my childhood home outside of Dell Rapids. And like any good pheasant hunter, where the birds went, I followed.

It was a long, chilly walk from the gravel road just to reach the waterway, and once I got there, the real work began. Clouds of frosty breath appeared with my every labored step as thick grass and cattails pulled at boots and calves.

With thighs and lungs burning, beads of sweat formed under my blaze orange hat despite the bitter cold. Any pheasant hunter who has done the same, however, knows that it was a labor of love.

Pheasants that had once been scattered across the section were now concentrated in these cattails, and I powered through the cover knowing that I was only a step or two away from watching another rooster thunder from the snow, cackling his disapproval over being ejected from the warmth below.

More roosters were missed than shot from the slough, but that winding length of snarly cover was a memory-maker for me. Taking a drive past it this fall, I was saddened to see, then, that the entire stretch of cattails and grass had been plowed under. Manicured banks of black dirt and a freshly trenched waterway remained in its stead.

If you’d take your own drive through countryside anywhere east of the Missouri River, you’d be hard-pressed to find a township that isn’t full of the same – acres of cattails and heavy grass (what game managers call thermal cover) or small tree claims and shelterbelts gone, likely forever.

These small chunks of habitat are all critical for maintaining a healthy pheasant population, but their demise isn’t receiving the publicity garnered by South Dakota’s declining enrollments in the Conservation Reserve Program (227,000 acres off the books in 2012 alone), not to mention the 2 million or so acres of native prairie that have gone green-side-down in the last two decades.

Burned, plowed, mowed, trenched, tiled – regardless of the method, the end result is the same: crucial habitat is disappearing at breakneck speed across pheasant country. It will be impossible to sustain our state’s pheasant hunting heritage – and the nearly quarter-billion dollar industry that accompanies it – unless action is taken now.

In terms of any help from Washington, D.C., questions surround the future of the Farm Bill and the important conservation provisions found within.

“There is a lot of uncertainty about the timeline of the next Farm Bill – will it get finished by the end of the year? – and even some talk of letting it expire completely,” says Dave Nomsen, vice president of government affairs for Pheasants Forever.

“In all of that hangs the future of those federal conservation programs that are vital to habitat in South Dakota. That includes, of course, CRP and (Wetland Reserve Program), and the Voluntary Public Access Program that’s important for South Dakota and its Walk-In Area program. Until all of this is resolved, those programs are all unavailable.”

Skyrocketing land values and cash rentals, near-record high commodity prices, strong export markets, corn-based ethanol industry – all are factors that Nomsen says have placed an unprecedented level of pressure on South Dakota’s agricultural landscape and added a greater sense of urgency for a sensible conservation title in the next Farm Bill.

Hope remains for action to be taken at the state level.

The diversity of South Dakota’s landscape would be well-served if Governor Dennis Daugaard would lift his campaign-promised ban on the purchase of ground by Game, Fish and Parks – the only South Dakota governor to ever place a moratorium on purchases made between willing private landowners and the GF&P.

At a time when federal and state budgets are tight and habitat is disappearing from the South Dakota landscape on a daily basis, it seems rather shortsighted to not utilize sportsmen’s dollars to protect those areas so important for wildlife, hunters, water quality, soil erosion and our economy.

There is little doubt, though, that the corner has already been turned toward a new South Dakota. The question remains if most of us will like what we see.

Nomsen says that history suggests otherwise.

“I was born and raised in northern Iowa, where my father worked as the state pheasant biologist, and we watched what happened to that pheasant population when agriculture became too intense,” says Nomsen. “If you look at what’s going on in eastern South Dakota, to say that it is going to look just like northern Iowa if things don’t moderate or halt, unfortunately, is probably a pretty spot-on comparison.”

The drastic changes that occurred on the Iowa landscape were often a topic of discussion for the late conservationist Tony Dean, who suggested that generations of Iowans will never feel the longing for those grasslands and wetlands destroyed simply because they “can’t miss what they’ve never known.”

Such is not the case here in South Dakota, where a diverse landscape has maintained clean water, healthy soils and created a pheasant hunting culture that fuels a $223 million boost to our economy.

If our nation’s elected officials fail us in Washington and our governor fails to lead on conservation in our own state, I fear that the future of pheasant hunting – and the overall quality of life for all South Dakotans and those who visit here – is in store for a change. Chances are, none of us will like the difference.

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Thanks for sharing this. I've been concerned as corporations and investors buy land and drive prices beyond what most local farm families can afford. They aren't going to care about CRP, shelter belts, watershed riparian zones, public access, walk-in areas, etc. All for the mighty dollar.

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If you want to see land destruction make a trip over to my neck of the woods. Absolutely disgusting. I love farming, but I pray everyday that I might be able to just quit and move up north.

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This article was written in todays Argusleader:

Crisis looms in pheasant country

full-6428-27034-tile.jpg

The loss of Conservation Reserve Program acres, native grassland and heavy wetland cover due to drainage (above) is putting a strain on South Dakota's pheasant habitat and the future of

A bigger crises looms in D.C. as we continue spending money we don't have on such things as farm bills and Conservation Reserve Programs.

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I drove up to Fargo in early November. I saw several semis hauling trailers full of tiling equipment. I also saw about 5 fields along the freeway that were being tiled. Sad sight for sure.

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A bigger crises looms in D.C. as we continue spending money we don't have on such things as farm bills and Conservation Reserve Programs.

So I assume you're in favor of eliminating subsidies to farms in entirety? And subsidies to oil companies?

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What happened to the Swampbuster legislation? I know they took some teeth out of it in 96, but some form of it is still in place, isnt it?

I would guess that the sanctions against draining wetlands isnt enough to offset commodity prices, that they are going to do it now, before the legislation changes again.

It is truly gut wrenching to see the work that is being done across the countryside. and thats just along the interstate travels for me. Just west of Humboldt, there is a large amount of dirtwork being done on a slough yesterday, and further west, there was a dozer tearing trees out of an old abandoned railroad track..

I can certainly understand crp coming out in lieu of rowcrops. I can even understand pastures being plowed for row crops. Exchanging $65 cash rent for $150 makes alot of sense for the producer.. What baffles me is the encroachment into the right of ways, for a couple more rows. Plowing up a yard that the farmlady has mowed for half a century in order to gain 2 more acres.. Discing up to the fencelines, when there used to be a wider buffer, tearing out groves that have been there for a couple centuries, just to gain 10 more acres.

Most of the tear out is being done, because the producers have the money now to do it. In the past, they never wanted (or had) the 11K to tear out a 10 acre grove to farm it.. Now they do, and they are "getting it done".

In fact, I would guess that alot of farmers in the midwest that were fortunate enough to harvest a great crop this year, may be being told by their tax man that theyve got to spend, spend, spend, and they are needing to come up with ways to get that done...

Eastern SD, Northern Iowa, and central Mn for the most part, had a [retty bright havest season, and I think whats where we are seeing the most habitat destruction, because of that. It is a "Perfect Storm" situation, that wil have ramifications for wildlife for a long long time, well past my lifetime..

In one way, I hope we get 4 feet of snow soon, or bitter cold temps to stem some of the destruction, or at least slow it down a year or so.. On the other hand, the crop they got this year, was for the most part done with residual soil moisture.. If we dont get snow and rains, and the drought continues, maybe some of the guys spending money on "cleaning up the farm" may wish they had their money in the bank, instead of spending it.

But then, there will be another disaster declaration, and uncle sam will bail em out again..

Sorry for the rant... Im going fishing..

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So I assume you're in favor of eliminating subsidies to farms in entirety? And subsidies to oil companies?

Yes, I would like to see the end of all ag subsidies in this country. As far as subsidies to oil companies, aside from being able to deduct the depreciation on their equipment like any other business receives (Not a subsidy)I'm not sure what if any subsidies they receive that could be taken away from them. This loss of wildlife habitat in rural areas has more to do with government intervention than anything else. Artificially low interest rates, A falling dollar, increased crop insurance subsidies, blenders tax credits and ethanol mandates have created incentives for producers to start working fields that would normally not be profitable. Without all of this misguided government intervention, much of this wildlife habitat wouldn’t be threatened in the first place.

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What a crock - farm subsidies. We pay them when they don't get a crop, insurance covers them when mother nature deals them a bad hand...then when they get bumper crops with high prices like recently they laugh all the way to the bank and forget it is only because of subsidies and CRP payments in the past they even held on to their property in the first place. Land in beet country in Eastern ND is going for $8000/acre and corn acreage in Iowa I heard is twice that. The rural banks cannot give out money fast enough with guarantees that the prices are high or the crop insurance covers it.

And....they get to go ice fishing all winter or head to AZ, CA, or FL....what a life! I know they spend a ton on equipment, trucks, new buildings etc that keep others in business but at what expense to the rest of us? On top of the taxes we pay to support them look at what a week's worth of groceries cost these days. I feel sorry for the families with 4 or 5 kids at home to feed, cloth, pay ins on cars, save for college education, etc. Something is not right here.

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http://www.keloland.com/newsdetail.cfm/brown-county-farm-land-sells-for-13k-per-acre/?id=140545

Brown County Farm Land Sells For $13K Per Acre

Published: November 29, 2012, 5:29 AM

ABERDEEN, SD -

Some Brown County farm land has sold for $13,000 per acre, breaking a county record by thousands of dollars.

Auctioneer Jim Thorpe says he knew the 158-acre tract in Cambria Township for sale Wednesday would test the upper limits of the market, but he had no idea it'd set a record.

The two quarter-sections of land sold by L.R. Corp. are about two miles north of Tacoma Park.

Another 158-acre tract in Henry Township five miles east and one mile north of Bath sold for $11,500 an acre.

Brown County director of equalization Mary Worlie says both tracts sold for much more than the previous record high recorded earlier this year, when land adjacent to the Brown County Fairgrounds sold for $8,300 an acre.

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What a crock - farm subsidies. We pay them when they don't get a crop, insurance covers them when mother nature deals them a bad hand...then when they get bumper crops with high prices like recently they laugh all the way to the bank and forget it is only because of subsidies and CRP payments in the past they even held on to their property in the first place. Land in beet country in Eastern ND is going for $8000/acre and corn acreage in Iowa I heard is twice that. The rural banks cannot give out money fast enough with guarantees that the prices are high or the crop insurance covers it.

And....they get to go ice fishing all winter or head to AZ, CA, or FL....what a life! I know they spend a ton on equipment, trucks, new buildings etc that keep others in business but at what expense to the rest of us? On top of the taxes we pay to support them look at what a week's worth of groceries cost these days. I feel sorry for the families with 4 or 5 kids at home to feed, cloth, pay ins on cars, save for college education, etc. Something is not right here.

I was at the Clay county fair this fall talking to a vendor. He said he had sold 22 Ice Castles (or the equivalent, not sure what brand he was selling) in the 9 days that he was there.. Said they were being used as a building at their bin/grain dryer site so they had a place to "monitor" the operation.. Fact..

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