2022 Berggren Plan Web

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9 For pheasant populations to return to historic levels, active management will be necessary� Pheasant management continues to be a high priority on many state-owned Wildlife Management Areas throughout the state� However, while clearly vital to the agency's mission, these management activities affect a relatively small percentage of the total landscape and thus, only provide benefits at the local level� With more than 97% of the state in private ownership, private landowners must be part of the solution� On private lands, direct economic gain derived from acres devoted to providing pheasant habitat is often reduced, so the ability to offer attractive incentives (financial or otherwise) to landowners in exchange for creating and managing habitat is critical� The most abundant and well-known sources of incentives are the U�S Department of Agriculture's conservation programs, which provide wildlife benefits on hundreds of thousands of privately-owned acres in Nebraska each year� It has long been recognized that these programs (most notably, the current Conservation Reserve Program) are the only government-derived incentives currently funded at a sufficient level to restore habitat (and thus pheasant populations) at regional and statewide scales� The Commission's traditional role in these programs has been to provide technical assistance to congressional and USDA staff during program development and implementation, and to help promote desirable program options to landowners� More recently, strategically-placed partnership positions – with organizations such as Pheasants Forever, Inc� (PF) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service – have greatly increased the agency's capacity to provide technical assistance and deliver conservation programs to Nebraska's private landowners� Despite these collective state and federal efforts (many of which are also shared and supported by private conservation organizations, most prominently PF), statewide habitat conditions continue to slowly deteriorate, and pheasant numbers continue to decline� Given present agricultural landscapes, it is unclear if and when numbers will stabilize without some fundamental change in commodity production systems� With little margin for error remaining, those interested in maintaining the pheasant hunting tradition must use their limited resources in the most efficient manner possible and look for new ways to establish additional habitat and keep existing habitats intact and productive� Literature Cited Mathison, J� and A� Mathison� 1960� History and status of introduced game birds in Nebraska� Nebraska Bird Review 28:19-22� Shafer, L� 2011� Nebraska Pheasant Hunting Almanac� Infusionmedia, Lincoln, NE� Taylor, M� W�, C� W� Wolfe, and W� L� Baxter� 1978� Land-use change and ring-necked pheasants in Nebraska� Wildlife Society Bulletin 6:226-230� PAST PHEASANT CONSERVATION INITIATIVES: ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND LESSONS LEARNED FOCUS ON PHEASANTS INITIATIVE, 2002-2015 The Focus on Pheasants (FOP) Initiative began in 2002 as a partnership between the Commission, PF, and the U�S� Department of Agriculture (USDA), who all had a vested interest in improving habitat and restoring pheasant populations� Through the FOP initiative, habitat improvement efforts were targeted within "focal areas" located throughout the state� Most focal areas were centered on some of the larger tracts of public land (e�g�, Branched Oak and Sherman Reservoir WMAs), yet others consisted almost entirely of private lands (e�g�, Stanton and Dixon counties)� On public lands, Commission staff implemented a variety of management techniques to create and enhance habitats for pheasants� This included disking, chemical applications, interseeding, tree removal, and prescribed fire, among others� Many of these same practices were implemented on privately-owned CRP fields using an incentive-based approach� In addition to improving pheasant habitat on thousands of acres within the focal areas, this initiative had many other notable accomplishments� "Habitat tours" became an effective way to share information on pheasant management with landowners and resource professionals� During the Stanton County FOP habitat tours in 2004 and 2005, more than 250 people from 19 states and 25 government agencies attended� These events and research projects related to FOP activities had a significant impact on USDA conservation program policy, and early successional habitats are still emphasized in CRP and other USDA Farm Bill programs today� Likewise, early FOP efforts designed to increase management capacity on

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