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Habitat Loss Obvious, New Farm Bill a Necessity

Hunting five states in five days as part of the 2012 Rooster Road Trip is accompanied by a lot of windshield time.  Time spent traveling two-tracks, tar roads and interstate highways.  Time spent looking at the landscape.  And one fact is depressingly obvious through our travels; America’s wildlife habitat is disappearing.

Native prairie habitat has been under assault in the Dakotas. Photo by Matt Morlock / Pheasants Forever

Black tile litters fields by the mile, sloughs are burning under plumes of gray smoke, and CRP lands have already been tilled in preparation of spring planting.  Our fathers’ remember the end of the Soil Bank when fencerows and ditches were removed.  We’ve all heard those stories and the joy CRP brought back to America’s pheasant fields.  As I drive, I can’t help but wonder how much corn the human race could possibly need and if we’re on the road to repeating our own tragic habitat loss history. On the Rooster Road, it’s painfully obvious to me that history is indeed repeating.  There is too much proof beyond the windshield to deny that fact.

In the last year alone, 6.5 million acres of CRP expired from contracts with most of those acres leaving the program for the plow.  6.5 million acres of habitat homes for all varieties of wildlife.  6.5 million acres filtering our waters, mitigating flooding and keeping our under-appreciated soil in in place on the ground.  Without a new Farm Bill during the last session of Congress, CRP and all of America’s federal conservation programs hang in limbo.

So as a new class of Washington leaders prepare to transition in and out of elected offices, Pheasants Forever urges the 2012 Congress to finish the job of a 2012 Farm Bill.  Our nation’s wildlife is too important to our way of life for habitat to continue to hemorrhage from our landscape under this generation’s watch.

A burning cattail slough filled the South Dakota sky with smoke today.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

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4 Responses to “Habitat Loss Obvious, New Farm Bill a Necessity”

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  1. Adam Gardner says:

    Not only this, but without a farm bill certain contracts are nul and void and ground can be plowed with a possible nonpayment in the spring. Some farmers don’t have to wait and see they can tile and plow now. Lost 80ac in Iowa I hunt due to this.

  2. Tony Barlow says:

    Amen Bob. It is a sad sight and one that breaks my heart for the future of our sport. Having two young boys has opened my eyes to how important the future is, and how much I want to share my love of the outdoors with them. So many factors have aligned leading to a perfect storm against habitat. Keep fighting the fight at PF.

  3. It’s getting tougher in Michigan too. I see fields that have laid fallow for years suddenly plowed up and gone to corn. acres all for the mighty dollar. I hunt a lot of areas in west Michigan and in the last 15 years I have seen perfect fields gone to corn or worse russian olive has taken over preventing even the dogs from going in let alone a person. Just this past weekend I hunted what was left of a field I have hunted for years. it’s now mostly covered in russian olive. so now I have to travel further afield to hunt. it breaks my heart to see so much land gone to waste and nothing done to stop the farmers from ruining more all in the name of liquid gold.

  4. Andy says:

    Despite the governments best efforts to moderate, ag markets always have been and always will be extremely dynamic. The same thing that is happening here (increased production and shifts away from small grains and toward corn and soybeans) is also happening in other breadbaskets around the world- notably Ukraine and the Black Sea region, and also in South America. More land in production coupled with big business investment, new trade agreements, factory style management and new technologies will greatly boost crop production worldwide. Over production is imminent. Crop prices will plummet. The federal subsidy program for a handful of commodity crops has always had one basic underlying purpose- to ensure a cheap and abundant (but gastronomically narrow) food supply. The upshot- if a farm bill can be passed that ties conservation compliance (such as sodbuster and swampbuster to conserve native prairie and wetlands) to the new crop insurance subsidy program, farmers will have no economic inventive to risk farming marginal acres. Time is of the essence. Once wetlands are drained and native prairie is plowed, the chance of restoring ecological integrity is slim, and very expensive.

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