Plowed Grassland Habitat Means Trouble for Wildlife and Hunters

"The thousands of non-resident hunters who will head west this fall -- including to the Dakotas -- to hunt pheasants and waterfowl will find less habitat and fewer places to hunt."

"Habitat is shrinking as farmers continue to withdraw thousands of acres of grasslands from the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and convert them to crops. The loss of habitat not only directly affects hunters but impacts wildlife - pheasant numbers are down dramatically in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

Since 2007 North Dakota has lost 1.8 million acres - or 2,800 square miles - of CRP. South Dakota has lost about a half-million acres - or nearly 800 square miles. And Minnesota has lost about 600,000 acres - or 937 square miles, including 100,000 acres that expired Monday.

In North Dakota, particularly, the loss of CRP will be noticed by hunters who use the state's walk-in hunting lands, called Private Land Open to Sportsmen (PLOTS). Under the program, landowners are paid to allow public access to their lands. Much of that acreage is grassland enrolled in CRP. If farmers pull out of CRP and convert their grasslands to crops, the PLOTS contracts also expire. In the past two years, the state Game and Fish Department has lost about 250,000 acres from the walk-in program."

Doug Smith reports for the Minneapolis Star Tribune October 2, 2013.

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10/03/2013