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Big Ag Crowds out Pheasants. Duh.

Last updated on 2015.02.23

Larry Kurtz is right: Governor Dennis Daugaard's Pheasant Habitat Summit in Huron yesterday was an exercise in absurdity. Daugaard spent time and money gathering hundreds of South Dakotans to fret and stew over the decline of a non-native species caused largely by his own industrial agricultural policies.

Strategic Conservation Solutions logoThe logo of the consulting firm brought in to speak to the issue says it all: one little sprout of green struggling up amidst rigid lines of row crops and pavement.

Larry links and adds his links to an excellent Iowa Public Radio report explaining how the decline of pheasants is all our fault:

As farmers across the Midwest have simplified the landscape and plowed up grassland to grow more corn and soybeans, habitat for pheasants, quail and other grassland birds has become increasingly scarce and their numbers are falling. In Nebraska, wild pheasant concentrations have fallen 86 percent since their peak in the 1960s. The pheasant harvest during hunting season in Iowa is off 63 percent from the highs reached in the 1970s. In areas that used to be overrun, you’ll struggle to find a pheasant now. [Grant Gerlock, "Pheasants Losing Habitat to Farmland," Iowa Public Radio, 2013.12.03].

Not hard to figure out, Dennis. Promote huge monoculture farms and ethanol over small, locally sustainable agriculture, and you're going to have fewer pheasants. And I didn't have to spend any tax dollars to come to that conclusion.


  1. interested party 2013.12.07

    Add the extirpation of apex predators, the resulting rise of mesopredators, increasing numbers of domestic dogs and cats then stir in a melange of industrial chemicals and climate change: voila! Red state collapse on parade.

  2. Michael B 2013.12.07

    Our incompetent Congress has refused to pass a Farm Bill. Because food stamp funding will stay at current levels with no new Farm Bill, Democrats will join with conservative Republicans and block any passage of legislation. Add the fact that the government is almost 100% assured to go through yet another shutdown and debt ceiling crisis in the new year, the Farm Bill is not going to be a high priority.

    Why should this matter?

    All of those programs that do a great deal for conservation and organic farms will go away. Pheasant and wildlife will further decline as land owners drain wetlands and convert CRP to cropland this Spring. We haven't seen anything yet. And then there is the $8 milk that is supposedly coming.

    You should be be very wary of politicians that are currently running for office that tell you how they are going to stick up for whatever values without compromise. The truth is that members of Congress are told what to do by their leadership and are required by them to worry more about raising money for re-election and blocking the other party's legislation than taking care of doing the country's business.

    Oh no, you guy or gal that is running is different.

    Horseshit. They are the same as everyone else that went to Washington with high expectations.

  3. interested party 2013.12.07

    Control the courts, especially the federal bench, Dems.

  4. Jerry 2013.12.07

    Even in west river country, the breaking up of lands continue. The old ranchers in my day always said that the place was not suited for growing anything except of the best hard grass in the world that is as true today as it was then. More so, I would argue. Instead, we let dingle berries like Denny and his corrupted crew direct us over the cliff. The millions that they shuffle among themselves of our future is amazing with scandal after scandal. In the meantime, they have the huevos to tell us how honest they are and how they will represent us better if we send their sorry behinds back to power.

  5. Wayne Pauli 2013.12.07

    I agree Jerry. I own a pristine 160 acres of land in Tripp County. It has never had a plow touch it. Some of the great grassland you mentioned. In addition in the SE corner there is a dam around which I hunted waterfowl, pheasants, and grouse as a youth. The drainage is great and all but about 15 acres could be tilled. I have a list of people wanting to buy it...none to maintain or create more wildlife habitat. Does every acre really count?

  6. Michael B 2013.12.07

    New corn hybrids are more resistant to drought. When land around here is worth 400 an acre to rent and 10k to buy, every acre does count

  7. Bree S. 2013.12.07

    That is a truly horrible logo.

  8. Jerry 2013.12.07

    Hang onto that Wayne Pauli, you have a treasure. My grandmother homesteaded in your area as young woman with her sister. When they came, this place was all open range and of course recently acquired from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe/government ??? They said the grass was belly deep to a horse and was a perfect place to raise livestock. Then, all around them, the farming began and all of this ground blew at one time in the 30's, and it will happen again because of a greedy till and a government that has forgotten history. At least with yours in grass, there is a fighting chance that it will stay intact when that day comes. I wonder in dollars and misery how much it will cost taxpayers to bail out the ag industry when the day comes where there is no water to keep these factories afloat. I also wonder when organizations like the NRA for instance, will comment on the lack of hunting availability. Are they that ignorant about the loss of hunting? Or Cabella's, nothing from them that I have seen. I guess the truth may be that they do not care about hunting and fishing. They are only interested in selling guns and ammo for the apocalypse.

  9. Roger Elgersma 2013.12.07

    After all the hoopla about stopping prostitution, there are no arrests in the hunting lodges with twenty four/ seven maid service. So God takes away the pheasants so it takes more than one hour to get your daily limit. I know, if you do not believe that God can do anything this will seem like a stretch. But we did have corn and soybeans for a hundred years and this is a very sudden drop in pheasants. More than just cropping changes in the last few years. If global warming mades corn grow better in South Dakota than before, then the lush grass will move west and north.

  10. Jeff Barth 2013.12.07

    Roger is right. Climate change.

  11. Douglas Wiken 2013.12.07

    Ever increasing property taxes destroy grass.

  12. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.12.07

    Larry, what are "mesopredators"?

    I lived in Newell for 6 years. I did a lot of visiting, meandering north and east in Harding, Perkins and Butte counties.

    I was so lucky to spend a day riding in the pickup of a shriveled up little old rancher in his 70s. He told me the history of the land we were driving through.

    There were several isolated graves from the 1860s-70s-80s. Soldiers fresh from the Civil War were sent West to fight American Indians. When one died, from any cause, they buried him there.

    In the early 1900s settlers flooded in to northwest SD in response to scammers advertisements of wonderfully fertile land that could be had for building a minimum 12'x12' building, tilling soil, and remaining in residence for 5(?) years. The scammers sold train tickets and got a cut of any other kind of transportation too. They sold the settlers equipment, including what they did not need.

    So the old rancher showed me where half a dozen towns used to be, some with functioning wells that now water cattle. Settlers only stuck around a year or two before realizing the soil and weather could not support a crop of anything except sage brush.

    Oh, one thing the residents continue to do to this day? Whenever a lonesome grave is discovered, the family that lives there takes on the responsibility. Since nearly every acre is available to grazing cattle, they put up a fence around the grave. They mow it a few times throughout the summer, and let anyone on their property who wants to visit it.

    Moral of the (too long) story:
    1. Farming that arid land and unfertile soil failed before causing great hardship to the families who tried. It will fail again.
    2. The people who ranch there now have an intimate and caring understanding of their land. Newcomers don't.

  13. grudznick 2013.12.07

    Larry, your comment at the top of this blogging made me think you were referring to Indian Country. I had to re-read the blog to understand your blogging wasn't about Indian Country.

  14. grudznick 2013.12.07

    I think that's a fine logo.

  15. interested party 2013.12.08

    Deb: no doubt you have looked up the answer to your own question. Coyotes, foxes, skunks are examples of mesopredators. Raptors like golden eagles will prey on deer and young elk.

    Dennis: your racist comment puts you in the mesopredator category with Wiken.

  16. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.12.08

    Thanks Larry. I was too lazy to look it up.

Comments are closed.