United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced Sept. 29 that Iowa will receive 50,000 acres into the Pheasant Recovery SAFE Practice, a new part of the Conservation Reserve Program. These acres are a vital part of the Iowa Pheasant Recovery Plan and were originally requested by Todd Bogenschutz, Upland Wildlife Research Biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Iowa’s Pheasant Recovery Plan was designed to strategically place large blocks of upland habitat conducive to successful pheasant reproduction and winter survival across the better pheasant range in the state. These habitat blocks in conjunction with publicly owned wildlife areas will serve as production areas to help repopulate the surrounding properties.
The specific details of the Pheasant Recovery SAFE practice haven’t been announced, but the general components of the original request should serve as a decent guideline. The designs from the request required each project to include three vital components to pheasant survival and reproduction in the Midwest. The majority of each project will be planted to diverse native prairie that serves as excellent nesting and brood rearing habitat, as well as benefits most other wildlife in the state. About a quarter of each contract will be planted to a monoculture of switch grass or shrubs and conifers to serve as dense cover offering protection to birds during the harsh winter months. The third component is winter grain food plots like corn or grain sorghum. These food plots stand up to inclement weather well and provide a steady supply of nutrients and cover when wildlife need it most.
Currently, no applications are being taken for this practice or any other practice within the Conservation Reserve Program due to the expiration of the federal farm bill. However, landowners interested in learning more about the program, or working with a private lands wildlife biologist to plan ahead for the future signup are encouraged to contact Danny Simcox, Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist with Pheasants Forever to schedule a farm visit. Simcox can be reached at (515) 391-0844 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.