June 23, 2012

Pheasants like managed CRP in eastern Nebraska

One of Ty's radio-marked hens on her nest. 
Photo courtesy of NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska
Game and Parks Commission
My research lab has a focus on understanding how habitat management affects populations of wildlife.  During the past decade, we've been working on Farm Bill-related research: how does breeding habitat provided by CRP affect wildlife?

The research project that started this focus was a project on pheasants in northeastern Nebraska.  NGPC and Pheasants Forever had established a landscape with a high level of CRP grasslands, and the grasslands were managed during their 10-year contract by discing and interseeding a clover-type mix.  Would this management attract pheasants?  Would their nest and brood survival increase?

The answer to both questions turned out to be "Yes!"

And, both papers from Dr. Ty Matthews' dissertation are now published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, available now as Early View papers:

Ring-necked pheasant hens select managed Conservation Reserve Program grasslands for nesting and brood-rearing -- available here

Mid-contract management of Conservation Reserve Program grasslands provides benefits for ring-necked pheasant nest and brood survival -- available here

The latter papers shows that pheasant hens that nest in these managed CRP habitats can double their productivity, providing many opportunities for hunters in the fall. 

All of this is great news for land managers, and our study confirmed that all of the public/private partnerships between landowners, NGPC, and Pheasants Forever to accomplish the management were worth the effort.  Unfortunately, the post-mortem on the project is that this unique landscape in northeastern Nebraska is not raising pheasants anymore.  It's raising corn.  High corn prices have made that decision a no-brainer for the private land owners who manage that landscape. 

So, we have good data to inform habitat management, but we continue to struggle with policy implications that are critical to change landscapes.

No comments:

Post a Comment