"Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative" launched
Stabenow, Stokes, Creagh join conservation groups and state agencies to kick-off wild pheasant initiative that promises to improve habitat, increase hunter opportunities
BATH, MICH - U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Department of Natural Resources director designate Rodney Stokes, and Michigan Department of Agriculture director designate Keith Creagh today joined together with a partnership of Michigan conservation organizations and representatives of federal and state agencies to kick-off the "Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative," a partnership geared toward restoring wild pheasant habitat in Michigan. The growing partnership currently includes Michigan State Council of Pheasants Forever, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Michigan Department of Agriculture, Michigan Association of Conservation Districts, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency and Natural Resource Conservation Service.
"I strongly support this program, which we included in the most recent Farm Bill," said U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. "Hunting and outdoor recreation is part of our way of life in Michigan. This program lets our farmers and landowners get added value from their property while opening up access for hunting. This will allow sportsmen from across our state to enjoy all that Michigan's outdoors have to offer."
By providing quality habitat to support the long-term recovery of wild pheasants in Michigan, the Initiative will also benefit other grassland species and create significant opportunities for small game hunters in Michigan. "There are more than 50,000 hunters who pursue pheasants annually in Michigan, and we can do better at meeting their demand for opportunity," says Mike Parker, Pheasants Forever's Regional Wildlife Biologist in the state. "It's a given that when you have quality and quantity habitat, you have pheasants. Revitalizing habitat - nesting cover, escape cover and food and winter cover - is the key to revitalizing pheasant hunting in Michigan."
Newly appointed Director for the Department of Natural Resources Rodney Stokes applauded the Initiative as a fresh example of good governing for Michigan's new state agency structure. "This initiative is a great showing of partnership between state and federal agencies and conservation groups, and a good example of how the new Quality of Life executive group will work together," said Rodney Stokes, director designate for the Department of Natural Resources. "It will increase and diversify hunting opportunities in our state, help with hunter recruitment and retention, and the habitat work will benefit many other species. We are very excited to be a part of the effort to rebuild and strengthen pheasant hunting in Michigan."
Two primary goals of the plan are to double Michigan's current pheasant harvest and to increase access to quality hunting lands. The plan will also have a tremendous impact on hunter retention and recruitment in the state. According to Parker, the key difference between past efforts and the new Pheasant Recovery Initiative is the broad landscape scale. "Previous efforts have been successful on smaller scales, improving 40 acres for a landowner here, and 40 acres for a landowner there," Parker said. "But to maximize pheasant hunting, we need to broaden the focus."
Michigan United Conservation Clubs Executive Director Erin McDonough heralded the Initiative as a gateway to recruiting and retaining new hunters. "Many first time hunters' experience comes from hunting small game," said McDonough. "You'll hear from many hunters in Michigan that they got started hunting and appreciating its place in conservation from hunting pheasants when Michigan actually had a good pheasant population. With Michigan ranking last in the nation in hunter recruitment and retention, MUCC is proud to be a part of this Initiative that will help improve hunter opportunities, hunter recruitment and retention and preserve the future of conservation in Michigan."
Along with the Initiative, Michigan DNRE will also be expanding opportunities for public hunting on private lands through the Hunting Access Program. Outreach and education to youth about pheasant hunting is also a priority within the Initiative. The conservation partners will host youth events to explain pheasant needs and habitat as well as an opportunity to share their pheasant hunting heritage with others.
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