Simple goal of pheasant summit: How to get more birds
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota's pheasant population has been on a long-term decline. Gov. Mark Dayton is hoping the first Minnesota Pheasant Summit this weekend will lay some ground for changing that.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Minnesota's pheasant population has been on a long-term decline. Gov. Mark Dayton is hoping the first Minnesota Pheasant Summit this weekend will lay some ground for changing that.
Saturday's gathering at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall will bring together hunters, farmers, landowners and government officials to strategize on how to raise the state's pheasant population and improve habitat for the game birds. Organizers expect about 300 people to attend.
Minnesota once had 18 million acres of prairie, but only a little over 1 percent of that remains. Habitat loss to farming and development is the main reason wildlife managers cite for the decline in pheasant numbers. The Department of Natural Resources says that while the population was up slightly this year, it was still 58 percent below the 10-year average and 71 percent below the long-term average.
"For almost 60 years, I have enjoyed pheasant hunting in Minnesota," Dayton said in a statement. "But the decisions we make today will determine whether future generations of Minnesotans will have those same opportunities."
The goal is to identify some concrete ideas for a four-year action plan, said Mike Tenney, the DNR's prairie habitat team leader. The ideas will be refined into a draft that will be discussed further at the DNR's annual roundtable next month. They also hope to continue the discussion with farm groups over the winter.
"We're not going to come out of a one-day meeting with a plan to save the world, but I have confidence we will come up with a handful of good initiatives and action items we can roll with," he said.
A DNR survey of hunters and others in preparation for the summit identified the loss of nesting and wintering habitat and the need to create and preserve more as by far their biggest concerns. Access to hunting land was another concern, as most of the land in Minnesota's prime pheasant country is privately owned.
Pheasants Forever, which is helping to organize the summit, hopes it will lead to both legislation and funding, said Matt Holland, director of grant development for the group.
Linking pheasant habitat with other issues such as clean water, soil quality and pollinators could be a way forward, Holland said. Encouraging more use of buffer strips on farms, and protecting wetlands, can keep pollutants like nitrates out of drinking water while providing good pheasant habitat. Planting more cover crops can improve the soil while providing shelter for the birds. Similarly, he said, good habitat for bees and other pollinators is also good for pheasants.
"If it was easy we would be doing it already," Holland said. "But it is a complex thing trying to get grassland on the landscape."
Dayton will speak, as will DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr and Agriculture Commissioner Dave Fredrickson.