Posts Tagged ‘Dave Nomsen’

Positive Pheasant Forecast Needs to Be Tempered by Reality

Monday, August 25th, 2014

A rooster pheasant flushes and glides to heavier cover on Sand Lake NWR in South Dakota. Photo credit: Tom Koerner/USFWS

A rooster pheasant flushes and glides to heavier cover on Sand Lake NWR in South Dakota. Photo credit: Tom Koerner / USFWS

The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks just recently completed their annual pheasant count. While the results won’t be available for a couple weeks, from everyone’s observations it appears as though pheasant numbers could be up from last year’s dismal count. If that’s true, that will be good news not only for South Dakota pheasant hunters but also for the countless businesses that benefit from the millions of dollars in revenue the tradition generates annually. Pheasant hunting is a true bellwether of the high quality of life South Dakotans have come to cherish. Supporting the habitat necessary to this time honored tradition benefits all South Dakotans economically, in clean waters and quality of life.

But if there indeed is an increase in pheasant numbers, that good news needs to be tempered. The “pheasant crisis” South Dakota has experienced over the past few years has not been solved. The findings will simply mean that a winter, spring and summer conducive to survival rates for adults and their broods have ticked the pheasant count upward. Next year may bring a far different set of circumstances.

The long-view for pheasant success in South Dakota calls for a stop to the upland habitat loss of recent years. Photo by Matt Morlock / Pheasants Forever

The long-view for pheasant success in South Dakota calls for a stop to the upland habitat loss of recent years. Photo by Matt Morlock / Pheasants Forever

If South Dakota truly wants to increase and stabilize its pheasant population, the issue of declines in pheasant habitat must be addressed. While tough winters and wet springs play a role in population changes, it’s the loss of habitat that’s responsible for the long-term decline of pheasants in the state. This habitat loss is the result of CRP and native prairie conversion, as well as drained wetlands and cattail sloughs. Since 2006, more than 450,000 acres of grasslands and prairies in South Dakota have been converted from wildlife habitat to row crops.

That is why I and many others are so hopeful about the upcoming recommendations of the Governor’s Pheasant Habitat Work Group. The Work Group has a unique opportunity before it to make policy recommendations that will permanently increase and stabilize pheasant populations by addressing the primary problem – habitat. There are dozens of different programs and practices that can be implemented to create higher quality habitat including: CRP, buffers, pollinator plots and cattail sloughs, as well as preserving all the areas that are difficult to farm that often have a lower cost-benefit ratio. There are also opportunities to better manage tremendous existing habitat throughout South Dakota, such as Waterfowl Production Areas, Game Production Areas, school lands, tribal lands and roadside ditches, for wildlife that is already on the ground.

Without addressing the problem of declining habitat, South Dakota will face a future of lower pheasant numbers, punctuated by population crashes as dictated by harsh winters, wet springs and/or drought. The resulting “boom-bust” cycle will not only have a negative effect on South Dakota’s time-honored family tradition of pheasant hunting, it will be devastating to businesses and their employees ranging from motels to restaurants to guide services to sporting goods stores. When populations are healthy, pheasant hunting brings $223 million into South Dakota each year and creates 4,500 jobs.

South Dakota has a unique opportunity to not only significantly improve pheasant habitat for the long-term, it can show that through creative management practices that farming and wildlife can be compatible. It does not have to be an either/or situation. Both industries are vitally important to this state and I believe South Dakota’s inherent can-do attitude will make it possible to have a strong agricultural industry and productive wildlife habitat that will not only produce an abundance of pheasants and other game, but also help assure cleaner water and healthier grasslands.

I am looking forward to seeing the official results of the road count and what I hope will be good news. I am also looking forward to the recommendations of the governor’s task force and the subsequent actions of policy makers that will hopefully help to assure that South Dakota will forever be known as the “Pheasant Capital of the World.”

-Dave Nomsen leads Pheasants Forever’s new Regional Headquarters in Brookings, S.D.

The Farm Bill Heads to Conference Committee

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Pheasant habitat and pheasant hunting depend on a conservation-friendly Farm Bill. Photo by Roger Hill

Pheasant habitat and pheasant hunting depend on a conservation-friendly Farm Bill. Photo by Roger Hill

“What is going on with the Farm Bill?” is the question filling up my inbox and voicemail.  It’s been more of a challenge to answer that inquiry in recent weeks than at any time in my career.  Frankly, it looks like the answer will remain murky for the foreseeable future.  Here’s what I can tell you:

Farm Bill Clears House

You may recall the 2012 Farm Bill died without ever reaching the full House floor for a vote.  Last month, the 2013 Farm Bill made it to the House floor only to be surprisingly defeated on June 20th with very little precedent for “what happens next.”   In another unpredictable turn, the U.S. House of Representatives abruptly brought the Farm Bill back to the House floor for a vote on Thursday, July 11th.  This time round, the Farm Bill went before the House with the controversial Food Stamp legislation completely removed from the rest of the Bill, presumably to be dealt with separately at a later date.  The resulting Farm Bill passed in a “split House” vote of 216 to 208.

Now What?

So, we have a comprehensive Senate Farm Bill with a strong conservation title; including CRP funding, WRP funding, a national Sodsaver provision and a re-linking of conservation compliance to crop insurance.

On the House side, we have a Farm Bill that doesn’t mirror the same components from the Senate (i.e. Food Stamp language).  Also, the Conservation Title in the House version doesn’t include a crop insurance connection to conservation compliance.  Additionally, the Sodsaver language in the House version is regional, rather than national like the Senate’s bill, in scope.

The two incongruent Farm Bills are now on to a Senate and House conference committee with the challenging task of rectifying the differences between the two bills for a full Congressional vote.  And the clock is ticking.  The current 2012 Farm Bill extension expires on September 30th and President Obama has also promised a veto of any Farm Bill reaching his desk without Food Stamp language included.

Clear as mud?  No question.  That’s why it’s so important Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are part of this process at every step.  We remain vigilant in our push for a new Farm Bill before the September deadline.  America’s wildlife, water resources and outdoor traditions depend upon strong federal conservation policy.  Rest assured, we are in D.C. fighting for roosters, quail, and hunters during these challenging times.

In the coming days and weeks ahead, please stay tuned to this blog and our social media outlets (Facebook & Twitter) as we will be issuing Action Alerts to help put pressure on our elected officials to vote in support of strong conservation policy.

The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.

Your U.S. House Representative Needs to Hear from Pheasant Hunters Today

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Pheasant habitat and pheasant hunting depend on a conservation-friendly Farm Bill. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

Pheasant habitat and pheasant hunting depend on a conservation-friendly Farm Bill. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

As you may recall, last year’s attempt to create a new Farm Bill died in the U.S. House, having never reached the full House floor.  Today, the Farm Bill will be debated on the House floor; however, we need your help voicing support for two important conservation measures currently under debate.  To that end, we are asking all our supporters to contact their U.S. Representative today with the following message: Vote YES on final passage of a five-year Farm Bill now.

Our ability to chase roosters behind good bird dogs under autumn skies depends on your emails and phone calls TODAY.  Your Representative’s contact info is available at or leave phone messages by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Your voice will make a difference.  Current and future generations of sportsmen and sportswomen are depending on you.  Thanks for your help.

Note: Last month, Pheasants Forever issued an Action Alert requesting our members contact U.S. Senators in support of passing the 2013 Farm Bill.  By all measures, that Action Alert generated more response than any other in our three decade history.  Thank you for taking action.  Your contacts helped to persuade the Senate to pass their Farm Bill by a vote of 66 to 27.

The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.

Farm Bill Clears Senate as September 30th Deadline Looms

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Pheasants Forever members and staff recently talked conservation policy with elected officials in Washington, D.C.  (l to r) PF staffer Tom Fuller, PF member Daryl Landsgard of Saint Olaf, Iowa, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, and PF member  Bob Puetz of LeMars, Iowa

Pheasants Forever members and staff recently talked conservation policy with elected officials in Washington, D.C. (Pictured l to r) PF staffer Tom Fuller; PF member Daryl Landsgard of Saint Olaf, Iowa; Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa; and PF member Bob Puetz of LeMars, Iowa (PHOTO BY REHAN NANA)

I am pleased to report the United States Senate passed their version of the 2013 Farm Bill by a vote of 66 to 27 on Monday.  This bill would establish U.S. agricultural policy for the next five years.  Included in the Senate’s bill were:


  • Reauthorization of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
  • Reauthorization of the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)
  • Reauthorization of the Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP)
  • A conservation compliance provision re-linking crop insurance premium support to certain conservation practices.
  • A national “Sodsaver” program helping to safeguard native prairies.


The Senate’s version of the Farm Bill is good policy for landowners, hunters and conservationists.  Unfortunately, there are a number of steps remaining before this policy can take effect for the benefit of farmers and wildlife.


The next step is for the U.S. House of Representatives to take up the Farm Bill on the full House floor.  This step, as you may recall, is exactly where last year’s attempt to push the Farm Bill to completion died on the vine.  Based on the discussion coming out of the House this session, I’m optimistic the Farm Bill will reach the House floor as early as next week.  The House and the Senate titles are relatively similar with the exception of two important policy provisions.  The House’s current bill lacks the conservation compliance connection to crop insurance and has a regional version of “Sodsaver” rather than the national version.  We’re going to continue to work toward influencing the House to include those two important provisions.


Consequently, we are asking all Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever members to be on alert as we monitor Farm Bill debate in the House in the coming weeks.  There will likely be a time in the coming days when we sound the alarm and ask all members and hunters to contact their U.S. Representative with a key message about our position on conservation.


Unfortunately, there are still three more steps for a new Farm Bill after passage of a bill in the House.  The first of those steps would be a conferencing of the Senate and House Farm Bills together to rectify differences between the two bodies.  Second, the conferenced bill would have to be approved by a full Congressional vote.  And finally, the final bill would have to be signed by the President.


Obviously, that’s a lot of steps and the 2008 Farm Bill expires on September 30th.  Congress needs to push this 2013 Farm Bill across the finish line before that deadline is met.  And, another extension to the 2008 Farm Bill would irreversibly change the face of private lands conservation threatening the existence of conservation programs that landowners and hunters have relied on for decades.


Stay tuned.


The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Government Affairs








PF Receives $1 Million Grant for Habitat Improvement on 3,829 Minnesota Acres

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Prairies and wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region are essential for upland and migratory bird production. Photo courtesy NRCS

Prairies and wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region are essential for upland and migratory bird production. Photo courtesy NRCS

Pheasants Forever has been awarded a $1 million North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant to conserve prairie and wetlands on 3,829 acres in southwest Minnesota. As part of the grant, Pheasants Forever and partners will permanently conserve, through land acquisition, 1,633 acres which will also be opened up for public access.

Prairie and wetlands are the two most highly altered habitats in Minnesota and elsewhere throughout the Prairie Pothole Region. The Southwest Wetland Initiative of Minnesota project, slated for Big Stone, Blue Earth, Cottonwood, Faribault, Jackson, Lincoln, Redwood, and Renville counties, is the first in a multi-year initiative to accelerate the permanent protection of prairie wetland complexes under threat from intensified agriculture, gravel mining and other activities. The project will protect 1,633 acres, restore 497 acres, and enhance 1,699 acres in sites important not only for pheasants but waterfowl production and migratory habitats for wetland-dependent species like mallard, blue-winged teal, gadwall, American widgeon, northern pintail, lesser scaup, marbled godwit, bobolink, and grasshopper sparrow.  Likewise, this initiative will provide associated water quality and soil benefits in addition to the habitat critical to this wide array of wildlife species.

A project of this expanse requires significant funding and partners. Pheasants Forever has utilized matching funding and partners to bring an additional $7.14 million to make this project a reality. The project’s partners include Minnesota’s Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council; Ducks Unlimited, Inc.; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; Cottonwood County Game and Fish League; Pietz Family Farms; Voosen Family; and the Bank Beer Company.

Additionally, Pheasants Forever chapters also played an important role in this conservation project through donations to the organization’s Legislative Action Fund (LAF). The Legislative Action Fund allows Pheasants Forever to go after available conservation funding through sources such as NAWCA, then turn those dollars into on-the-ground wildlife habitat projects. Pheasants Forever chapters, through our Legislative Action Fund, are helping the organization bring more conservation dollars to the table while helping us maintain our model of efficiency.

The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.

SODSAVER: Prairie Grasslands Get Needed Support

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

One of the final additions to the U.S. Senate’s 2012 Farm Bill language was the inclusion of the John Thune (R-S.D.) & Mike Johanns (R- NE) amendment to limit insurance on newly converted croplands.  The provisions commonly known as “Sodsaver” are a strong addition to the Senate’s conservation title and were included with bipartisan support as the Farm Bill worked its way through the Senate Agriculture Committee.


U.S. Representative Tim Walz and PF's Dave Nomsen after recent D.C. hearing where Nomsen testified in support of Sodsaver provisions and other conservation programs.

A few minutes ago, a companion House of Representatives “Sodsaver” bill, called the Protect our Prairies Act, was introduced by Representatives Kristi Noem (R- S.D.) and Tim Walz (D- MN).  This bi-partisan leadership is exactly the type of action we need to strengthen a conservation title that will likely reduce overall federal funding for many of our existing conservation programs.  Strategically focused federal policy can go a long way in support of wildlife and conservation priorities despite funding reductions, and in this case will help provide critically needed support for existing native prairie habitats.  An added plus is this “Sodsaver” provision actually SAVES nearly $200 million in federal spending.


However, at this stage of the bill, it’s simply a proposal.  To ensure this policy reaches the final 2012 Farm Bill and ultimately hits the ground for habitat, please consider helping me do two things.  1) Thank Representatives Noem and Walz for their leadership, AND 2) ask your U.S. House Representative to join them in co-sponsorship of the Protect our Prairies Act.


U.S. Representative Kristi Noem (center) after a day hunting with family in South Dakota.


The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.

USDA Secretary Vilsack Targets Improvements to CRP

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

The USDA's new Highly Erodible Lands CRP Initiative will help prevent dust storms like this one in Kansas

Last Saturday evening before a sold-out crowd at the National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic banquet in Kansas City, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced in a video message that the USDA will soon be rolling out important news about the Conservation Reserve Program.  In addition to the upcoming general CRP signup announced earlier this month, the USDA intends to specifically target very environmentally sensitive and highly erodible lands in an effort to encourage their enrollment as part of the ongoing continuous CRP.


This should be welcome news to bird hunters everywhere as we’ve watched massive declines in CRP acreage, especially throughout the northern Great Plains states.  Hopefully, this is the first in several actions desperately needed to shore up a struggling Conservation Reserve Program; the result of record land and commodity prices.


In addition to this latest USDA announcement, Pheasants Forever is calling on the USDA for the following actions:


  • Updated and more competitive CRP soil rentals rates.


  • Reallocations of wildlife-focused CRP practices like CP-33’s for quail, CP-37’s for waterfowl, and CP-38’s for pheasants and other critters.  In other words, reallocations move un-enrolled acres to states that have maxed out their current allotment.


  • New pollinator provisions concurrently strengthen CRP’s wildlife and farm economy benefits.  Pheasants and quail share a common need for habitat featuring a diverse forb (flowering plant) component with pollinating insects like honey bees, butterflies, beetles, and bats.  Following a pheasant or quail nest’s hatch, young chicks survive almost exclusively on a diet of insects.  These insects critical to a gamebird’s life cycle are also dependent upon a diverse mix of forbs.  Likewise, these flowering plants create fantastic brood cover allowing chicks to move through habitat at ground level, while having protection from avian predators in the sky.



Mother Nature has been helping upland wildlife with a mild winter thus far, but unless we shore up the critical habitat the CRP provides, it will continue to disappear from the landscape and our favorite birds’ futures will continue to look grim indeed.


The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.



Desperate Days for CRP

Monday, October 10th, 2011

I hope you received our important Action Alert last week asking pheasant hunters and Pheasants Forever supporters to immediately contact your two U.S. Senators and one U.S. Representative about making CRP reauthorization a top Congressional priority.  I can’t stress enough how important your email voice is in today’s battle to save America’s benchmark conservation program.

Is the Conservation Reserve Program headed the way of the Soil Bank?

I have worked in Washington, D.C. on conservation programs and CRP since its 1985 beginnings.  I’ve never, ever, seen the program’s future so grim.  There are proposals to slash CRP’s current 32 million-acre baseline in half . . . or worse.  I don’t need to tell you what a loss of that magnitude would mean to pheasants, quail, flood prevention, water quality and hunting access.  “DEVASTATING” is the word that rings in my mind.

I recognize we do need to reduce federal spending, but we need to be wise about our conservation cuts.  If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines of this battle for conservation in the past, it’s critical that you get in the game now.  Your future and your children’s future of days spent in the field together with bird dogs and flushing roosters hangs in the balance.

This is my personal plea; please, please contact your two U.S. Senators and one U.S. Representative about making CRP reauthorization a top Congressional priority today.  If you get a response back, please drop me an email message with the feedback you receive at  Please don’t let CRP be this generation’s Soil Bank program of days gone by.

Thank You!

The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.

Reflections on Last Night’s Pheasants Forever Discussion about CRP with USDA Secretary Vilsack

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

From left to right: U.S. Representative Tim Walz (MN), Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever Vice President of Government Affairs, U.S. Representative Collin Peterson (MN), USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Howard Vincent, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever President & Chief Executive Officer

It’s clearly been a tough winter on the birds.  As I drove home late last night, Orion ‘the Hunter’ shone brightly down on the snow covered landscape and I dodged occasional snow drifts and ice patches.  Earlier that afternoon I’d driven to southern Minnesota for an event and saw several bunches of pheasants, unfortunately crowded near roadsides or along edges of snow-filled covers. 

Last evening, I’d left a room filled with Pheasants Forever chapter leaders and members, farmers and landowners, state and federal agency reps, and other conservation folks.  We’d gathered for an informal discussion with several policymakers from Washington, D.C.  USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack was seated beside House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson and southern Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz.  They listened to various presentations from resource professionals at Ducks Unlimited, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Minnesota’s Board of Water and Soil Resources, and Pheasants Forever, on topics ranging from native prairies and wetlands to CRP. 

Secretary Vilsack reflected back to his election as Iowa’s governor and spoke about how there isn’t really a “manual for incoming Governors,” so when he asked the outgoing Governor for advice, the first thing he heard was “whatever you do, continue the Governor’s Pheasant hunt.”  The Secretary also told us about one of his first Oval Office meetings where the First Lady spoke about the importance of youth and healthy outdoor activities including hunting.  Chairman Peterson told a story of growing up in the ‘good ole days’ of the Soil Bank and that once that program ended and the birds disappeared he vowed to do something about it and he continues to do that today as one of Congress’s staunchest supporters of the CRP.  Congressman Walz and I reflected back to my first meeting with him in Washington, D.C. when his first words to me were ‘I’m a Rooster Booster!” referring to his membership level in Pheasants Forever.

Beyond these pleasantries were solid discussions about the importance of hunting and fishing to rural economies, the vast benefits of CRP, concerns over rental rates and eligibility, and the need for public access.   Specific to CRP, the Secretary reiterated that USDA clearly intends to maintain at, or near, a fully enrolled 32 million acre program.   That’s reassuring to us, as we enter a period of several years with expirations of more than 5 million acres annually.  We’re still waiting for the detailed news about how that will happen.  Check out next week’s National Pheasant Fest in Des Moines where we hope to hear more from the Secretary about continuing CRP’s 25 year legacy.