January 2016 marked the 5 year anniversary of the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative (MRPI), which happened to over lap with open enrollment for the General Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). General CRP only opens periodically, so this created a great foundation to build a series of events off of. December through February, I worked with the Farm Bill Biologists, DNR, USDA, Conservation Districts, and many more partners to not only promote CRP, along with other programs that support habitat improvement, and highlight the accomplishments of MPRI; but also to promote wildlife cooperatives around southern Michigan.
In total, nine events were held around southern Michigan. Over 200 people attended these events. I have heard that there were a fair amount of people who came into the FSA/NRCS offices to learn more details pertaining to their properties.
The benefits of CRP primordially include improved habitat, better water quality, and soil erosion reduction. These factors all play important roles in improving our quality of life in our recreation, our drinking water, air quality, and sustainability of our agriculture production. CRP is the number one contributor of grassland habitats that benefit not just pheasants, but also insects, song birds, and a whole list of game and non game species. An area of concern that was addressed, pertains to the Monarch Butterfly. This iconic species is recognizable to a large segment of the human population. What is not as commonly know, is that the Monarch numbers have declined 90% in the past decade. Improving the quality and quantity of our grassland cover will only help the Monarch's likelihood of survival.
Highlighting the accomplishments of the MPRI was of significant interest to many of the attendees. To view the accomplishments Report, please click here.
First off, it is important to communicate the goals of the MPRI:
1. Increase habitat through cooperatives.
3. Increase hunter access on public and private lands.
4. Increase hunter retention & recruitment.
5. Improve habitat & get more “boots on the ground.”
In the first five years, ten pheasant cooperatives have been started, and over 12 more are currently in the early stages of development. Hundreds of thousands of acres have been converted in to quality acres for habitat. USDA programs have installed almost 300,000 acres, while wildlife partners such as Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited have implemented over 80,000 acres. Via wildlife habitat grants, DNR has improved over 15,000 acres of quality grasslands. The Hunter Access Program has expanded, 8 Farm Bill Biologists have been hired, and the wildlife cooperative program now exists.
Now, it is extremely important to note that Michigan Hunters play a key role in these efforts. Not only are many of them involved with the actual work that is being accomplished on the ground, they are rallying together within cooperatives, and they are buying hunting licenses. A couple years ago the Legislature increased the license fees. That increase went into training more Conservation Officers, and increasing their boots on the ground. Those dollars also went in to a new grand program where landowners and organizations can apply for money to do habitat work on private and state land. Of highest effect on me, my position as the wildlife cooperative coordinator would not be possible without those increased funds. So hunters of Michigan - I thank YOU and the organizations such as MUCC, QDMA, and Pheasants Forever, for your financial investment into the program I oversee. I sure hope you see the value that goes back to our wildlife!
These events would not have been possible without the assistance of our Farm Bill Biologists (Dennis Tison, Tyler Tankersley, Jason Myers, Erick Elgin, David Ferris, and Monique Ferris), the Conservation Districts, DNR field staff, NRCS and FSA Staff, and my road show partner, Mike Parker. A special shout out to Tom Horney and Dave Heatherly with Monroe County PF Chapter - what an event! Almost half of our attendees came to their event in Cabella's. Thank you for all of your contributions to make this series something valuable to hunters, farmers, and other land stewards.