OTTUMWA — While Iowa's pheasant population is declining, there are plans in place to help shield the bird from unfavorable weather.
The Iowa Pheasant Recovery project has a new, 50,000-acre continuous CRP practice in place this year available in seven southeast Iowa counties: Wapello, Jefferson, Mahaska, Keokuk, Washington, Louisa and Henry. The project is designed to provide pheasants severe winter cover, nesting habitat and food.
"We looked at our pheasant counts from 2002-06 and looked at the counties that seemed, over that span of time, to have the best pheasant densities," said IDNR upland biologist Todd Bogenschutz.
Davis, Van Buren, Lee and Des Moines counties were not targeted for the program.
"We've been experiencing some really bad winters, and one of the things we think is lacking on a lot of the CRP is really good winter cover," he said. "Hopefully this will bump up winter survival."
The acres are provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Already, 2,000 acres have been spoken for.
Offered tracks will range in size from 20 to 160 acres, with requirements for severe winter cover and food. It may be stacked against existing CRP to create a larger complex of habitat.
Eligible land must be cropped or considered cropped for four years between 2002-07 as either row crops, small grains or forage crops grown in an acceptable rotation.
Rental rates will be based on a maximum soil rental rate established for the three predominant soils, plus an annual maintenance payment. The standard 50 percent FSA cost share is available, plus a 40 percent incentive to establish the practice. There is a sign-up bonus of an additional $100 per acre. Contracts are for 10 to 15 years.
Those counties ineligible for the project have other continuous CRP options, including Upland Habitat Buffers, the new Highly Erodible Land Initiative and many wetland practices.
For more information, contact your local IDNR private lands biologist at 515-281-5918, go to www.iowadnr.gov/habitat or stop by the local FSA office.
— Chelsea Davis, staff writer