U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced the results of a study demonstrating the impact lands enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) have on pheasant populations. In follow-up to that announcement, Pheasants Forever (PF) estimates that the 25.5 million acres of CRP located in the pheasant range produce an estimated 13.5 million pheasants annually.

"There has never been any doubt that CRP acres have been responsible for doubling and tripling pheasant populations in many regions across the pheasant range," explained PF President and Chief Executive Officer Howard Vincent. "However, this USDA study gives us absolute statistical proof of CRP's impact on pheasants. When it comes to the construction of the 2007 Farm Bill, there is no question about CRP's impact on wildlife, our hunting heritage, and the hunting-based economy of many rural areas across the pheasant range."

Researchers from Western EcoSystems Technology of Cheyenne, Wyoming conducted the pheasant study for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Pheasants Forever was intentionally excluded from the survey to maintain the study's integrity. The researchers evaluated CRP's impact on pheasants by observing Breeding Bird Survey counts along 388 nationwide routes.

According to Secretary Johanns, the report estimates a 22-percent increase in counts of ring-necked pheasants for every four percent increase in CRP enrolled acres within large units of pheasant habitat.

To further demonstrate CRP's impact on pheasant populations, PF created an equation taking into account the number of pheasant nests per acre of CRP, eggs per nest, nest success, and brood survival. Using that multiplier, PF estimates that the 25.5 million CRP acres within the U.S. pheasant range are responsible for 13.5 million pheasants annually. PF acknowledges that their 13.5 million pheasant estimate can go up or down dramatically depending upon various weather conditions.

"Pheasants Forever applauds the thousands of landowners enrolled in CRP for helping make a difference for pheasants, wildlife habitat, soil resources and water quality. Landowners enrolled in CRP can feel a great deal of gratification in their conservation decision with today's announced research," remarked PF's Vice President of Governmental Affairs Dave Nomsen, who is also a trained wildlife biologist and researcher. "This study's findings also reinforce the record harvests seen in many states the last few pheasant hunting seasons. Those record harvests are a direct result of CRP acres, PF habitat projects, mild winters, and favorable spring nesting conditions. CRP equals more pheasants. It is that simple."

Originally established in 1985, CRP offers annual payments for 10-15 year contracts to participants who establish grass, shrub, and/or tree cover on environmentally sensitive lands. Not only have these CRP lands been shown to improve pheasant populations, but CRP is also responsible for improvements in water quality, soil erosion prevention, and the creation of critical habitat for a variety of other wildlife species. CRP also helps stabilize farmer's incomes through annual payments and contribute billions of dollars to the economy annually from hunting expenditures; much of which benefits rural communities. CRP is part of the Federal Farm Bill, which the current version of expires at the end of next year.

PF is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to the protection and enhancement of pheasant, quail, and other wildlife populations in North America. PF and its quail division, Quail Forever, have more than 115,000 members in over 660 local chapters across the continent.

SOURCE: Pheasants Forever