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Preserving an Iowa hunting tradition

The Braley Brief

December 16, 2013
By U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley - D-Waterloo , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Every fall, Iowa hunters head outside into the crisp weather to enjoy a day of pheasant hunting with friends and family. Unfortunately, in recent years this tradition has taken a big hit from a sharp decline in pheasant populations. Concerned Iowa hunters have been looking for answers - and solutions.

Last month, I experienced these pheasant hunting woes firsthand when I went hunting in southern Iowa. As I was walking through the fields with friends and local farmers, we discussed the low pheasant numbers and ways to safeguard a sport so many Iowans love.

Extreme weather has been a major contributing factor to the weak pheasant population. According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, coming out of the 2010-2011 winter, Iowa marked five years in a row of average snowfall over 30 inches. This causes large mortality among overwintering pheasants. The drought of 2012 also hurt pheasants by hurting Iowa farm production, leaving food sources far scarcer.

Article Photos

U.s. Congressman Bruce Braley

Loss of habitat has contributed to the decline of Iowa's pheasant population. According to the Iowa DNR, from 1990 to 2005, Iowa lost 2,500 square miles of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands. That's equivalent to an eight mile wide strip of land crossing Iowa from Davenport to Council Bluffs. And the loss of CRP land leads to heavier game bird losses and cuts deeply into pheasant production.

With the expiration of the Farm Bill in September and Congress' failure to renew it, the Conservation Reserve Program has suspended new enrollments entirely. This means farmland set aside for conservation under CRP can only decline further; new CRP lands cannot be added unless the Farm Bill is renewed. With rising crop prices and no program in place creating voluntary incentives to conserve habitat, it's likely to be another tough year for Iowa's pheasant population.

The first step to solving is problem is getting Congress to pass a comprehensive Farm Bill. Farmers need it in order to plan for the next planting season, consumers rely on it for stability in food prices, and hunters depend on it to help preserve a sport they love. It's long overdue, and it's time to get it done.

Like so many Iowans, pheasant hunting was a part of my family's small town Iowa identity and remains a part of who we are. With so many people focused on preserving this tradition, I know hunters, land owners, and all concerned Iowans can work together to find other ways of safeguarding the future of pheasant hunting for generations to come.



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