Tory Schalkle, the great-great grandson of one of the men who brought pheasants to Redfield 111 years ago, Henry J. Schalkle, writes from Minnesota to advise Governor Kristi Noem on what South Dakota might do to restore our imported ringneck population.
Contrary to what one might expect if one imbibed Governor Noem’s coonskin-cap propaganda at full gulp, Schalkle does not mention skunk, opossum, and other small predators as the cause of dwindling pheasant numbers. The cause, says Schalkle, is much bigger varmints:
There are fewer pheasants because 47 percent of pheasants’ home (“nesting habitat”) has been converted to cropland. And this nesting habitat has been decimated because the financial incentive (the Conservation Reserve Program, or “CRP”) for farmers to create nesting habitat has been slashed by Congress.
This, ultimately, is the root cause – farmers need more incentive and support to allow nesting habitat that benefits pheasants, which attracts hunters, who fund South Dakota. CRP also has enormous benefit to water and soil quality for all residents [T.J. “Tory” Schalkle, “Future for Pheasants in South Dakota,” Pierre Capital Journal, 2020.01.26].
Revitalizing CRP depends on federal action, and since South Dakota’s Congressional delegation lacks the voice and courage to convince the farmer-loathing White House to act in the genuine best interest of agriculture or the outdoors, Schalkle focuses on pro-farm and pro-pheasant actions South Dakota can take on its own. Again, Schalkle’s solutions say not one word about trapping:
I am requesting Governor Noem reconvene/form a permanent Pheasant Work Group to explore additional solutions, including:
- Drastically increase prices for hunting licenses for out-of-state residents. Out-of-state hunters (70K each year) are 56 percent of SD’s pheasant hunters. Having them pay an extra $70 (the price of their baggage fee) would generate an extra $5 million.
- …Fund stronger enforcement of CRP stipulations and hunting permits.
- Pass state legislation to fund stronger SD Game, Fish, and Parks incentives for farmers to use off-season cropland as habitation
- Add stipulations on any funding to require certain cover crops; disallow grazing, haying, and tilling; and prevent crop insurance from causing habitat conversion.
- Use some existing state funds to buy and convert land to public wildlife refuge areas.
- Have an outreach program so farmers know how to fully utilize CRP and wetland reserve easements in order to take advantage of habitat funding.
- Manage existing public land in pheasant-encouraging ways. This can be as simple as changing what’s planted along certain roadways [Schalkle, 2020.01.23].
These wonky solutions don’t have the outdoorsy cachet Govenror Noem peddles of sending kids outside to get back to their pioneer roots by catching critters and whacking off their tails. But unlike the Snow Queen’s eye-catchers, these wonky solutions would work.