Pheasants Forever plans to open its first regional headquarters office in Brookings, South Dakota in July. Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s long-time Vice President of Government Affairs, will permanently move to South Dakota becoming the organization’s point person in the state. The move comes as the organization ramps up efforts to address substantial habitat losses and land use changes in South Dakota, which have resulted in a dramatic decline in pheasant numbers.
“South Dakota is the epicenter of pheasants in the United States. Unfortunately, South Dakota is also the epicenter of grassland habitat loss,” explained Howard Vincent, Pheasants Forever’s President and Chief Executive Officer.
According to a 2012 South Dakota State University (SDSU) study, 451,000 acres of South Dakota grasslands were converted to agricultural production from 2006 to 2011. In 2013, the South Dakota Game Fish & Parks annual pheasant index
showed a 64 percent drop in bird numbers; the result of habitat loss coupled with poor weather conditions during nesting season.
In naming Nomsen to the South Dakota post, Vincent said, “Dave has a thirty-year track record of conservation victories, he’s a former South Dakota resident, graduate of South Dakota State University, and served on the faculty of SDSU’s Wildlife Department. He’s moving to South Dakota because we need to reverse the habitat decline there and he’s the perfect guy for the job.”
Pheasants Forever was formed in St. Paul, Minn. in 1982 and has always been, and will continue to be, headquartered in the Twin Cities. While the organization employs field representatives throughout the country, it’s never operated a regional headquarters. Nomsen intends to find office space in Brookings and will be working to strengthen relationships with federal, state and private groups in the state.
“Pheasants are such an important part of the state’s culture that there is a rooster pheasant flying over Mount Rushmore on the commemorative South Dakota quarter,” explained Nomsen. “South Dakota’s pheasant traditions are at risk because of habitat loss. We intend to work with landowners, hunters, and our partners to help ensure South Dakota remains the pheasant capital of the world.”
The South Dakota Department of Tourism estimates pheasant hunting generates $223 million in retail economic impact annually and an additional $111 million in salaries annually. Those revenues are the result of 76,000 resident and 100,000 non-resident pheasant hunters purchasing licenses, fuel, food and lodging during the state’s three-month hunting season. The season’s opener is also acknowledged as the busiest weekend of the year at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport. In fact, the state estimates there are 4,500 jobs linked directly to the pheasant hunting industry and related tourism. Plain and simple, pheasants are big business in South Dakota.
Nomsen is a Clear Lake, Iowa native, where his father was the chief pheasant biologist for the Iowa Conservation Commission (now the Iowa Department of Natural Resources). Following his father’s conservation lead, Nomsen received a master’s in wildlife management from South Dakota State University. He has been with Pheasants Forever since 1992, where he began as PF's wildlife biologist for Minnesota. Nomsen has spent the last two decades as the organization's voice on Capitol Hill and one of the most respected and knowledgeable advocates in support of federal farm conservation programs; including the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). With extensive experience in wetlands conservation, Nomsen also worked with South Dakota’s Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit during the 1970s and has served on the North American Wetlands Conservation Council for the last two decades and under three different presidents.
About Pheasants Forever
Pheasants Forever, including its quail conservation division, Quail Forever, is the nation's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 140,000 members and 745 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent; the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure. Since creation in 1982, Pheasants Forever has spent $508 million on 475,000 habitat projects benefiting 10 million acres nationwide.
Pheasants Forever in South Dakota
South Dakota’s 32 Pheasants Forever chapters account for 6,000 members statewide. Those chapters have spent $4.8 million to complete 24,000 habitat projects since the first South Dakota chapter was formed in Minnehaha County in 1985. Those projects have improved 360,000 acres for wildlife.