The National Wild Pheasant Conservation Plan Management Board met in March 2017 to discuss priorities for the upcoming 2018 federal Farm Bill. All agencies and organizations represented on the Management Board are also members of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, which was simultaneously working on its own broader set of recommendations. To ensure that both sets of priorities were compatible, the Board suggested surveying the state wildlife agencies in the pheasant range to determine which of AFWA’s recommendations were most critical in meeting their pheasant and general wildlife management objectives. To that end, the Plan Coordinator worked with the National Wild Pheasant Technical Committee to construct a survey and collect responses from the states in April 2017.
Eighteen of the 23 state wildlife agencies within the primary pheasant range, and 1 of 6 states in the secondary range, responded to the survey, for a total of 19 participating states. Responding states by National Wild Pheasant Conservation Plan region included Idaho, Oregon, and Washington (Great Northwest); Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas (Southern High Plains); Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota (Northern High Plains); Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin (Big Rivers); Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania (Great Lakes); and Arizona (Affiliate States). A complete list of Plan states by region can be found on page (iii) of the National Plan.
Survey questions and results are presented below.
Question 1: Which items in the AFWA Farm Bill platform does your agency believe are the highest priorities for meeting your (A) pheasant and (B) general wildlife management objectives? Referenced programs include the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Improvement Program (VPA-HIP), and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
State Wildlife Agency Recommendations for Meeting Pheasant Objectives, in Priority Order:
(Codes following text are used in graphical presentation of results below; a full list of codes can be found here.)
1. Reauthorize CRP and step up the acreage cap to 36-40 million acres by the end of the Farm Bill, based on the following considerations. (CRP1)
2. Incorporate state and regional recommendations for eligible [CRP] mid-contract management activities and criteria for cover management. (CRP16)
3. Continue to prioritize [CRP] enrollments in national and state Conservation Priority Areas (CPAs). Processes developed for prioritized enrollments should include national and state-level initiatives for fish and wildlife conservation. Only contracts containing management practices that benefit the priority wildlife species should receive the CPA points. Furthermore, if the total CRP acreage cap is increased, increase the percentage of cropland in a state included in a CPA from 25 percent back to 33 percent. (CRP14)
4. Reauthorize the [VPA-HIP] program at no less than $150 million over 5 years. (VPA1)
5. Continue to offer General, Continuous, and CREP enrollment options in CRP. (CRP12)
6. Require management to establish or enhance high-value wildlife cover on reenrolled CRP or CCRP acres to ensure wildlife habitat resource concerns continue to be met on all CRP acres. (CRP13)
7. Continue and enhance [CRP] incentives for high-value wildlife cover types that are ecologically-appropriate for the site. (CRP15)
8. Restore [ACEP] funding to a minimum of $500 million per year, with an increase to at least $750 million over the life of the Farm Bill. (ACEP1)
9. Increase baseline funding for EQIP. (EQIP1)
10. Over the life of the Farm Bill, increase the minimum amount of EQIP funds required to be used for wildlife conservation practices to at least 10 percent annually. (EQIP2)
11. Grazing done expressly for wildlife habitat (as determined by NRCS in consultation with the State Technical Committee) as part of [CRP] mid-contract management should be exempt from the 25 percent reduction in annual rental payment, if included in a conservation plan at the start of the CRP contract. (CRP9)
12. Include report language encouraging USDA to conduct and complete a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement on haying and grazing on CRP contracts, as well as grazing and prescribed burning during the primary nesting season. (CRP18)
13. Incorporate state input to target EQIP wildlife funds towards priority fish and wildlife species, including Species of Greatest Conservation Need as identified in State Wildlife Action Plans. (EQIP3)