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Five Widespread Myths about Pheasant & Quail Populations

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Not only are certain myths about pheasant and quail populations prevalent, belief in them takes the focus away from what really has an impact on sustainable bird numbers – the creation and management of upland habitat. Here’s a closer look at five widely-held beliefs about America’s most popular upland gamebirds.

pheasant-stockingMyth: Stocking pheasants and quail works to restore wild populations.

Busted: During the last half century, there has been a colossal amount of money spent on supplemental stocking programs by state and local governments, sportsman’s groups and private individuals. Countless studies have shown that stocked pheasants, no matter when they are released, have great difficulty maintaining self-sustaining populations. Predators take the main toll, accounting for 90 percent of the deaths; at the same time, predators are conditioned to the idea that pheasants are an easy target.

Pen-raised birds do provide shooting opportunities and are a good way to introduce new hunters to hunting in a controlled situation; they’re also handy for training dogs. But the bottom line is stocking pen-raised pheasants and quail will not effectively increase populations. Only by addressing the root problem that is suppressing populations – the availability and quality of upland habitat – can a long-term positive impact be made on upland bird numbers.

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fox&pheasantMyth: Predators are the main reason there are fewer pheasants and quail.

Busted: Yes, coyotes and fox will eat pheasants and quail, and raccoons and skunks are likely culprits when it comes to raided nests. But predators don’t eat habitat, which is far and away the biggest reason why pheasant populations decline. High annual losses to predators should not be misunderstood to mean that predation is responsible for long-term upland population declines. Landscapes with good habitat often have high numbers of pheasant numbers, as well as high numbers of many potential predators.

The impact of predators is magnified and often pinpointed as the primary problem after habitat conditions deteriorate. Confine pheasants and quail to smaller and smaller parcels of habitat, and a predator’s job gets a whole lot easier. Thankfully, well-designed habitat projects can reduce predation by up to 80 percent. Through the addition and management of habitat, not only does there tend to be a decrease in the impact predators make on existing nests, but more habitat is likely to increase the number of nests and the overall gamebird population. And habitat for pheasants and quail comes at a fraction of the cost of other intensive predator reduction methods that are cost-prohibitive across a large area.

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wild_turkey3Myth: Turkeys eat quail chicks.

Busted: A single Florida study from the 1930s noted an instance of turkeys destroying quail eggs. No biological study since has documented turkeys damaging quail nests or feeding on chicks. Turkey researchers have not found a single quail chick or egg fragment while examining thousands of turkey stomachs. In addition, scientists monitoring quail chicks fitted with radio transmitters and watching quail nests via remote cameras have yet to catch a turkey in the act. Given that literally hundreds of studies of wild turkey food habits and predation on quail have been conducted over the past 80 years, the lack of evidence is remarkable. The conclusion is that turkeys have no direct role in the decline of quail.

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Myth: Hunting is hurting pheasant numbers.

HPIM2293Busted: Extensive research has shown hunting has little-to-no effect on pheasant reproduction and populations. Hens and roosters are easily distinguished in wingshooting situations, and because hens are protected through game regulations, pheasants are actually managed much more conservatively than many other gamebirds. And because roosters are polygamous – that is, they will mate with multiple hens – hunting in effect is only removing a “surplus” of males not absolutely necessary for reproduction the following spring.

Most of a pheasant season’s harvest takes place during the opening weekend, sometimes as much as 50 percent. Additionally, the majority of pheasant hunters are most active during the first two weeks of the season. Considering these factors, liberal, lengthy, roosters-only seasons do not harm populations.

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Cover5Myth: Habitat isn’t the biggest key to healthy pheasant and quail populations.

Busted: Two factors affect upland bird populations above all others: habitat and weather. And while we can’t control the weather, we can influence the amount and quality of upland habitat. Habitat is what supports strong and healthy pheasant and quail populations – one need only look at how pheasant populations rose in the late 1980s, 1990s and 2000s coinciding with increases in Conservation Reserve Program upland acreage, and their subsequent decreases as those acres diminished.  Historically, a lot of money has been spent trying to stock pheasants and to battle predators. Had these dollars been invested in habitat restoration, pheasants, quail and other upland wildlife would’ve benefitted.

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

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34 Responses to “Five Widespread Myths about Pheasant & Quail Populations”

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  1. Jay Gore says:

    I am so glad you posted this. Surprised there are not many posted replies. I serve on Montana’s Upland game bird habitat enhancement Council and the Governor’s recent Sage-grouse Council. The public harps on predators and hunting continuously. People do not want to believe or acknowledge that human’s cause habitat destruction and are the main source of game bird, or any wildlife, population loses. Please keep up your fine blog and conservation work. Jay

  2. Josh says:

    Great post! Thank you for busting these myths and putting the root issue of habitat loss and degradation front and center. If more resources were put toward habitat preservation and restoration instead of bandaid solutions, both wildlife and humans (hunters and non-hunters alike) would benefit.

  3. Dale Williams says:

    I currently live in central Wyoming. Various people have stocked pheasants in this area and they are gone either within the year or at the most the following year. I just took a trip to Nebraska, where I grew up. On an afternoon drive in South central Nebraska I saw zero pheasants and almost no habitat. On the drive back and forth we saw plenty of turkeys and no pheasants. Cover is practically nill all through the Platte valley. We did see many road-killed raccoons. The lesson we should learn is that the habitat we now have favors turkeys and some predators, so that’s what we have.

  4. Ben Reali says:

    Great to see this. You should do an expose on Washington State. We have/had the best habitat in the world and its been destroyed. Our Pheasant numbers are horribly low and its ridiculous. The State isn’t interested in maximizing its potential hunting dollars, as the folks in Seattle and Olympia are too PC or simply oblivious to what it could be.

  5. Geeze, I wish we’d be able to convince a slew of people out there, especially the wolf, hawk and other predator shooters about the validity of the predators don’t reduce prey populations, but are dependent on them.
    Habitat is where it’s at, where it’s always been, where it will always be!
    Make it and they will come… provided its connected to other pieces of habitat, etc.
    Great message!

  6. Tim Baker says:

    Yes habitat, but it takes a big chunk or many closely associated smaller chunks to make a lot of difference. This is usually found on private property. It often requires big dollars to go there when property owners realize they have a good population of birds. Therefore it’s difficult to pump dollars into someone else’s private hunting grounds so a few scraps of birds are available to the non paying hunter on adjacent lands.

  7. Chris Schulz says:

    Not sure I agree with #1. We have raised and released pheasants on land we hunt in west central MN and we have seen the population grow, while habits has decreased. More birds means more breeding and more hatched birds. If you release them and give them cover, food and water source I feel the amount that survive is dramatically increased.

  8. Mark Mortenson says:

    Good post, I was just talking to a friend of mine about him plating birds and not see much at the end of the season. I was telling him that pen birds do not survive and reproduce.

  9. Thom Maher says:

    I have never heard or read anywhere anything about turkeys eating quail eggs – or pheasant eggs for that matter. My concern is the that increasing populations of turkeys are taking over remaining pheasant habitat (or what’s left) and as part of that population increase destroying the pheasant and quail nests. I have heard that complaint frequently: Once you begin seeing turkeys on your property, the pheasants will disappear.
    I would like to see a study on that problem. I am disappointed that
    PF attempts to debunk the effect of increasing turkey populations
    on quail and pheasant populations by referring to one study done clear
    back in 1930. A weak argument – I expected better of PF.

  10. Here in Michigan’s thumb area, wind turbine farms have destroyed not only hunting opportunities but the activity and land destruction are bad. My friends and I have lost access to farms for hunting. The construction traffic and the huge parking lots for the vehicles have turned some nice farms into wasteland as far as habitat goes. Have any of you fellow hunters had to deal with this? Efforts to bring back habitat and hunting have really been dealt a blow here.

  11. Al Gehrt says:

    Habitat is key for any species, however… Ecological succession, over a period of time, can render a given habitat unusable for a species once there in numbers. Thus Aldo Leupold’s “Axe, plow, fire, and cow” as tools in habitat management. I, too, have witnessed the invasion of turkeys in some of my prized ringneck and bobwhite haunts while simultaneously seeing a decline in these species. I cannot help but wonder if there are some subtle habitat changes to the favor of turkeys and detriment of these species. Farmers and ranchers by far and away control the vast majority of our land base and farming and ranching practices targeted at greater productivity and economic efficiency can and do have detrimental effects on gallinaceous birds and until we, as sportsmen and women are willing to step forward and economically compensating these individuals for their costs in preserving habitat, why should they? You only need look at aerial photography over the last twenty years and the changes on the face of the land become readily apparent. I hunt mainly in the midwest – Kansas and Nebraska – fence rows and other “wastelands” have become a thing of the past. The impacts of these changes are easily understood biologically.

    The other question that causes me concern for which there are no definitive answers are the impacts of agricultural herbicides and pesticides on our wildlife. These question are really tough and complex concerning the multitude of agricultural chemicals in use and how they affect one another.

    As to the predator piece of it, predators can and do have an adverse impact on wildlife populations. I can recall predator control programs on the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge in the sandhills of Nebraska targeting coyotes with the objective of increasing white-tail deer populations; and snakes, possums, and raccoons with the objective of reducing waterfowl nest depredation. Both programs were highly successful and the habitat on the refuge was extremely well managed. One can also look at the response of the ungulate populations in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem in response to the successful introduction of the wolf. When I was at Rathbun Lake, Iowa, the Iowa DNR was conducting a study of predators and bobwhite quail. During the course of that study, it was not uncommon for a hawk (predominantly red-tail) to find a covey of quail and sit on it until the last bird was eaten. Yes, this, too, was quality habitat on a state-managed wildlife area.

    As to hunting, the law of compensatory mortality kicks in especially with ringnecks. In work done by Bill Baxter and Karl Wolfe in Nebraska, it was determined that pheasants could be hunted from September through March with no adverse effects to the population. However, land owner tolerance did become a factor.

  12. @Thom – thanks for reading and commenting, and for supporting Pheasants Forever and wildlife habitat conservation. Per your question, more recent studies conducted at Tall Timbers Research Station in Florida and another in South Texas failed to document any involvement of wild turkeys in nest depredation. At Tall Timbers, some 800 bobwhite nests have been video-monitored over the past decade, and no turkey depredations were recorded. Also, there has been no evidence of turkeys killing chicks. In south Texas 127 bobwhite nests were video-monitored and none were impacted by turkeys. – Anthony Hauck, online editor, Pheasants Forever

  13. Jim Roelofs says:

    I have read this before that it does not work to release pheasants. So, how did this immigrant make it in this country?

  14. Bill Weaver says:

    Before 1998 Southern Iowa had pheasant and quail hunting that was outstanding. Since then we have an increase in turkey’s and thanks to the wisdom of the dnr they introduced a new predator the bobcat( to control the turkeys) what they didn’t take into consideration was the Bobcat is an equal opportunity eater and quail and pheasant are easier to catch than turkeys. So now we have a bobcat season and non-huntable populations of quail and pheasant. Why couldn’t the state restock with wild birds and raise the limit on bobcats and legalize the shooting of Red Tail Hawks, then quail and pheasant might have a chance to make a comeback.

  15. Steve Grebner says:

    While I agree with most of this I do question the position that a thoughtful restocking over a period of years (# of birds per year over a 3-5 year commitment) in an area where there IS some acceptable habitat, can work. BUT you are not going to hunt it right away, and you must expect a 70-90% death loss. But if you think about the compounding of the impact – you do the math.. Is it perfect no, but if you have water, cover – both nesting and loafing and food attempting to re invigorate the population isn’t wrong – remember the ring neck isn’t indigenous to North America naturally anyway….

  16. Denny Kirkham says:

    Very good post, but as you can see from some of the responses, some folks are never going to be convinced, no matter how much research has been done documenting the failure of pen raised birds in establishing a self sustaining population or that turkeys have not been the cause of upland bird declines. In Illinois, the rural landscape has changed so much over the last 70 years with greatly intensified farming practices, super clean fields, very limited small grain and hay production, pastures converted to corn and bean production, and on and on. I do not want to place the blame on farmers as they are in business and agriculture is going to change even more in the future. What I feel needs to be pushed by the Feds is the CP 33
    bird buffers program. If farmers would take unprofitable and marginal production land out of the picture, enroll it in this CRP practice, planting native grasses and forbs, the farmer comes out ahead, upland wildlife gains needed cover, and soil and water quality improvements result as well, benefitting everyone.

  17. Al Pulliam says:

    I agree with Al Gehrt. I have hunted Quail and Pheasant for 40 plus years and studied the birds and also habitat. Habitat is without a doubt the answer to a lot of problems, but its not the entire problem! Mr. Gehrt mentioned the Herbicide issue. I believe we still have a herbicide problem as well and that the Government, because of the financial impact, protects the herbicide companies and that the studies are not exactly correct.
    Also, the TURKEY invasion is a large problem as well. I have witnessed the turkeys come into an area that had quail populations and within a few years all the quail are dried up. Now I do not believe that turkeys have impact as far as nest destruction, but they do carry the Lone Star Tick and I can tell you that if a small (1-15 day old) chick gets badly infested with these tiny monsters, especially around the eyes like I have seen, then the Party is over. I personally think that these two things that I have mentioned are a more serious problem today and need attended to along with the habitat as well. And one last thing, like Mr. Weaver said in his post, the Red Tailed Hawk needs trimmed back a ways as well. In Kansas last year I literally saw one on every 5 or so power poles and fence posts!!

  18. Rich says:

    Pen raised birds don’t make it, period. But how did pheasants get introduced into Iowa? 4-H kids would get eggs from the DNR, put them under a laying hen who would hatch and raise them, and when they were mature they were released. Yes habitat was better in the 40′s, but there is one other piece of the puzzle. Every 160 acres had a farm, and every farm had a farmers wife who raised chickens. On the farm were at least to guns. One by the back door, and one behind the barn door. Any thing that came by walking or flying that would bother the wife’s chickens DIED. (The last thing the farmer wanted was a p.o.ed wife.) Every fall the creek running though the farm had three sets of traps in it. The farmers kids traps, the neighbors kids traps, and the guy who was trapping without permissions traps. Preditors were controlled 24/7/365 days a year. Go to the DNR website and look at the population trends of racoons, and pheasants. I doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a PHD, in Statistics to see a relationship here.

  19. Curt Voight says:

    Rich has it right. I have been hunting pheasants on my dad and granddad’s place since I was 8 years old south of Aberdeen, SD. I am 68. When I was growing up on the farm there was a rifle in the pickup, barn, and several in the house. We used them all year. Skunks, coons, hawks, owls, badgers, fox, coyote, were all open season and we took it serious. I made my way through college trapping mink. Those predators ate all year. A den of fox would clean out every pheasant within a quarter of a mile. You see hawks every quarter of a mile for a reason.
    The last 2 years I have seen more hawks than pheasants. There is one every quarter of a mile. You don’t dare shot one!

    I agree the loss of quality habitat plant and animal for pheasants is huge. There is no cover and no pests (bugs) for a significant population to survive. Farming has sterilized the environment! Nothing survives unless it pencils out for a profit.
    PF needs to get its’ act together. Pressure on the state and feds as to where the money goes for licenses. The effort needs to be at all levels. Restoration of quality habitat and control of predators on a balanced level.
    Where I come from the current saying is the landscape looks like Iowa and Nebraska – No wonder pheasants are gong to be a thing of the past in South Dakota. Slow learners until it is too late.

  20. Matt Shook says:

    Myth #1 Stocking Pheasant does work and has worked since the pheasants were first introduced (Invasive species they are). It is all about how and when the birds are introduced. We have started introducing hens in Western Kansas after the drought wiped us out and so far we can tell that there is a carry over and some of the hens re produced. While the carry over is not high it is better than nothing. Out of 50 banded hens released last April we have 12 left with bands and 17 yearlings. This is compared to the year before where we had 0. There has been water albeit man made for wildlife, feeders and great tracts of treeless land but the habitat has not changed much. The biggest quest of knowledge for me, is why we have 10Xs the Prairie Chickens now that the pheasants are gone. While I agree Habitat is 70% of the equation let us not forget we are farming less acreage now than we were in 1940-90.

  21. Craig Smith says:

    What about spraying? I moved to a acreage in central Iowa in the late 90′s, had hundreds of Pheasants around then. after 20 years the field crops, creeks, buffer strips, landscape is the same but no Pheasants now. What I have seem is more crop dusting by plane could this have a effect on the population of Pheasants ? The spraying starts in June and continues through out the summer. Has there ever been any studies on this? I remember when see a crop duster was unusual now you see several a day spraying.

  22. Tom Kroll says:

    Ethanol is the main killer of phez and quail habitat. A far left libtard program meant to decrease the family farm operation , increase giant corp farms with massive equipment that pushes the Avg Joe out and places smaller bands of AG producers who will vote for the continued libtard practices of govt support of Ethanol, a worthless product akin to solar and wind which is a joke on Americans sitting on more coal and oil then we could ever use, let alone go just a few miles offshore and tap trillions of easy oil. Yet that would empower the USA and a strong populace wont vote for Libtard ways… destroying a desire to hunt by eliminating places to hunt is also their side machinations related to taking away our guns and one reason to have them…to hunt.

  23. Darren Mann says:

    Please disprove the myth that Round-up is killing newly hatched chicks and hens that make their way into fields during spraying. They nest field edges and just like quail hdqtrs must find bare ground for chicks to maneuver and find forage on bugs. Once in these fields they are dowsed with chemicals or consume it. If you look at a chart showing the decrease in populations it also conincides with the more widespread use of the chemical. In Europe, they have done studies on its impact on wetlands. Not in the USA. Do a study on this. It wouldn’t be difficult. Place some birds in the field prior to a farmer spraying a field and see what happens. I’m tired of hearing about habitat. There is more Quality CRP acres today than ever before. More native grass plantings than I EVER saw growing up when we had pheasants. There IS something else causing the decline, you just need to find it. Stop beating the drum for habitat acres just to gather support for your cause.

  24. Al Gehrt says:

    I am unaware of any acute effects of Roundup (glyphosphate) to which you are referring. And while acute effects are more easily ascertained, chronic effects are much more challenging. I have read reports of aerially applied parathion quite literally knocking birds out of the air. There are so many agricultural herbicides and insecticides in use in agricultural use today and while pesticide labels address wildlife concerns, there is no repository addressing the compounding antagonistic effects of exposure to multiple pesticides. What I do see is changes – significant changes – to habitat as a result of the use of roundup. Wheat stubble, for example used to be great habitat post harvest with the growth of annuals such as fire weed and the like. However, Roundup is now routinely used to control annuals post harvest to conserve soil moisture .

    As with any question regarding a biological community, the answers are extremely complex. Habitat quality is a huge factor, no two ways about it. But predation, weather, disease, soil also influence productivity

  25. Colin Gosselin says:

    For another research based view on predator management as a wildlife conservation tool, check out Delta Waterfowl’s 2013 Predator Management report here:

    http://www.deltawaterfowl.org/news/reports.html

  26. Bob Butz says:

    Weather trumps habitat. I live near the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge in sw Nebraska. This large area of “ideal” wildlife habitat suffered a severe decline in bird #’s this past year. I assume because of the spring and summer weather. With the Game Commission management I have always wondered why bird populations there never have approached Dakota type numbers.
    They did prove through the years that releasing pen raised birds, even from wild stock, had little effect on sustainable populations.
    I have wondered about acquiring wild pheasant hens and releasing them in areas of good habitat like this?

  27. Dave Friedeman says:

    I think we can all agree that Habitat is key. The question is what kind of habitat? Back when there were abundant pheasant populations Government programs included “set-a-side acres”. These were acres that were left idle for a set number of years by the farmer. Any kind and every kind of weed/grass would populate the area. Bugs and insects would also invade the space in large numbers. Then along came the CRP program. Great nesting but terrible food source. Nesting was never a problem. Waterways, Hedgerows, and roadsides were adequate. I would like to see “set-a-side” acres return. When the Farmer decides to start production of the land, one pass with a chemical control and they have a clean field again. Feed the pheasants and quail and they will return!

  28. Drew Wahlin says:

    Same Myths apply to Chukar and Hun Populations. Idaho Chukar Foundation (www.facebook.com/idahochukarfoundation

  29. Bill says:

    Turkeys have displaced pheasants along the Boise River to a point that IDFG is looking for ways to greatly reduce the population . Of course habitat is the key and the smaller the habitat the more you have to manage it and that includes predation. Putting turkeys along IDAHO’S SW Boise river’s pheasant habitat has been a big mistake ” if you want pheasants” I know as I helped NWTF do it. I would like to see PF stop the “spin” and focus on the PRODUCTION of wild Pheasants.

  30. Chris says:

    There are a number of things of concern with this article. It reads like it has more of an agenda than trying to help the pheasant and quail populations, or educate hunters in any meaningful way. Propaganda-ish.
    1. Stocking pen raised birds isn’t the only option to stock birds. As a few have said here, there is room for creativity (no pun intended) that should be explored further.
    2. We all know that foxes and birds of prey tear into game bird populations. We’ve seen it happen. We’re not blind nor stupid. It also follows that if you increase a population of prey animals, you increase the availability of prey for the predators. This means that predation as well as game bird production must be managed together.
    3. I’ve never heard of turkeys hurting eggs or nests. I believe the information that they don’t. However, we all know that turkeys can be aggressive. It follows that since turkeys are larger and cover a lot of area, that they would have a behavioral effect on the smaller ground birds and push them out of the premium cover (where they may be preyed upon more easily).
    4. True. Killing a few cocks a year shouldn’t have an much of an effect on breeding and most likely helps the population by reducing cover/food competition for the hens to some degree.
    5. Habitat is a major factor, but it is unrealistic to think you can build perfect habitat that won’t need management of competitive species and predation. Russian Olive trees and realiable native seed producers will only get you so far. I think a more balanced approach to both increasing habitat and habitat quality, as well as predator management and reintroduction of WILD birds to managed lands, would provide the best chances of healty game bird populations.

  31. Dave Pisarski says:

    If you’ve had the experience of hunting land with high quality habitat and controlled hunting pressure I think you’ll be convinced that sustainable wild pheasant populations are a reality, not a myth. In general, most of what I read in the previous posts is true at any given time, somewhere in the country. I still believe that PF’s main efforts have to continue to center on habitat improvement. It won’t be easy, but that’s where the battles have to be won. And I’ll add one thing about today’s pheasant hunters, too, based on what I’ve seen or heard. There are fewer that are willing to put in a good days hunt (work) for the birds. It seems like a lot of us just want to be able to jump out of the truck and find birds within the first half-hour in the field. If not we quit on that spot and call it a bust. In my experience I’ve been able to find birds on public ground regularly, but I’ve had to put in some time and energy to get to them. Draws higher up on hillsides, bluffs that look marginal when viewed from the road, and larger tracts of wetlands and sloughs can be really productive if you’re willing to go for it. But it seems that few of us do, anymore, and that’s too bad. What bothers me most is when the extra effort isn’t made and then the complaints are leveled that there just are no birds to be found anymore. They’re not called wylie roosters for nothing. I’ve taken the mindset that I’m going to appreciate the opportunities that I’ve still got, which really aren’t all that bad, and I’ll put some of what I’ve got left in the tank towards trying to make it even better.

  32. Larry Longerbeam says:

    Here in East Tennessee in 1982 quail numbers declined around 80% with continuing declines to where they are virtually extinct. In this one year the quail completely disappeared in the mountains where no pesticide or herbicides were used. We have thousands of acres of good quail habitat devoid of quail. The need for good habitat is a given, but until we find out why quail disappeared from good habitat, we won’t solve the quail problem.

  33. Chuck De Young says:

    Coupled with the demise of family farms and the federal protection of raptors pheasant populations have crashed through out the north east. Areas of western NY and southern NJ had a viable population of pheasants and quail.
    Now preserve hunting as well as private stocking are the primary method of pheasant and quail hunting.
    Myself and members of the club I am affiliated with have witnessed hawks and owls take birds within moments of stocking.Raptors,coyotes,foxes and other predators have dessimated small game. Quality cover is very hard to find and the majority of tillable soil is used for crop production or has been allowed to revert to weeds.

  34. C.A. says:

    I’m an Iowa farmland owner who has turned a few hundred acres of rowcrops and overgrazed pasture into diverse prairie. I have pheasants and I have hawks. I value both, and so do most conservationists. Any serious proposal to legalize hawk hunting would cause a national public-relations firestorm, and it should. Hawks are not the problem.

    One real problem that has not been mentioned is that rowcrop farm conservation now is entirely voluntary in many states, including Iowa. Conventional corn and soybean production is generally very leaky, shedding a lot of soil erosion, nutrients, and pesticides. The result is massive water pollution. Iowa alone has several hundred officially-impaired rivers, creeks, and lakes. An argument might be made that what happens on private land is private business. But what happens to public lakes and rivers is everyone’s business.

    Why should rowcrop farming remain completely free of pollution regulations when the current voluntary-only system isn’t working and when regulations have done so much to clean up pollution from other sources? I’m a geezer who grew up in southeast Michigan and I remember what the water used to be like there. If the voluntary-only approach had been used to address the water pollution caused by manufacturing plants, the Cuyahoga River would still be catching on fire.

    The bottom line is this. If some teeth were finally put behind farm water pollution reduction efforts in the Midwest, the result would be more native prairie plantings, because they work. Research has clearly shown that native prairie plantings are great at holding soil, holding nutrients in place, filtering water, storing carbon, and adding to soil organic content, which holds water and reduces flooding. More wildlife, including more pheasants and pollinators, would be a huge bonus.

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