More than 75,000 acres are now enrolled in South Dakota’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) along the state’s eastern James River watershed. All these acres – which have been enrolled with the help of Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologists – are private lands that are open to walk-in pheasant hunting. With acres in the process of being enrolled and strong interest in the program this spring, there is optimism the program could reach its 100,000-acre allotment before October.
“Public benefits to this program include additional CRP acres for pheasants, waterfowl, nongame birds and numerous other species of wildlife,” says Emmett Lenihan, a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist based out of Aberdeen, “All of these acres are open to public hunting at no extra charge. The CRP grasses also improve water quality and soil quality.”
Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologists are located in local USDA service centers in priority habitat areas throughout the pheasant range, including South Dakota. Farm Bill Wildlife Biologists educate farmers and landowners about the benefits of conservation programs, such as CREP, as well as assist those farmers and landowners after programs have been implemented.
South Dakota has been rapidly losing upland habitat in recent years, particularly in the eastern half of the state and the Prairie Pothole Region. Conserving wildlife habitat in 25 eastern counties in the state through CREP has been a success; one Pheasants Forever hopes to build off of.
“Pheasants Forever has seven Farm Bill Wildlife Biologists in eastern South Dakota, and all are experienced working with CREP,” Lenihan says, “Any of us can help a farmer or landowner to determine if their land is eligible for CREP and help them with the process of enrolling. Our local Pheasants Forever chapters have also provided strong support for the Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist program and for CREP.
Photo: Jack Dillon and is Lab, “Sophie,” traveled from New Jersey to South Dakota where they worked up this rooster on a CREP walk-in area.