Dayton’s 10-point plan aims to rescue pheasant population

Published 9:27 am Tuesday, September 15, 2015

NICOLLET — Gov. Mark Dayton released a 10-point plan Monday for addressing a long decline in Minnesota’s pheasant population, with some steps for helping the game bird underway and other goals that will be closely tracked for signs of progress.



Dayton and key advisers appeared at a southern Minnesota conservation club to detail the plan he said was put together with farm groups and organizations such as Pheasants Forever. It seeks to enroll more cropland in conservation programs, improve habitat management on public and private lands and acquire land dedicated to pheasant development.

“For 60 years, I have enjoyed pheasant hunting in Minnesota,” Dayton said in a written statement. “The decisions we make today will determine whether future generations of Minnesotans will have those same opportunities. We must work together to increase the pheasant population in our state.”

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The plan builds off a summit convened last year to tackle a sagging pheasant population. The 2015 pheasant index is 39 percent below the 10-year average and 59 percent below the long-term average.

At the root of the pheasant decline is a swift drop in nesting habitat, lost to cropland and development.

The plan focuses largely on private land in Minnesota’s pheasant range, the Star Tribune reported, which Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr said is where most pheasants live. But the plan also stresses the addition of more public hunting and habitat-intensive lands.

The Democratic governor cited recently enacted legislation to increase buffer zones around waterways as a move forward because it should reduce chemical runoff that can be harmful to pheasant habitat.

Many of the goals are general, but there are some measurable ones. For example, the plan calls for enhancing habitat in areas at least 9 square miles large where at least 40 percent of the area can be permanently protected within four years.

Money to help fund the plan will be sought from a variety of sources, including the Heritage Fund, which is overseen by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and the Minnesota Legislature.