Written by Candy Sarikonda
Recently, the Monarch Joint Venture announced that Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have joined the MJV as new partners in monarch conservation. This is an important partnership that will allow Pheasants Forever and MJV to further spread their conservation messages and have a greater impact on habitat restoration. Pheasants Forever (PF) is a national organization dedicated to the conservation of pheasants, quail and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public awareness, education and land management policies and programs. Pheasants Forever members are a diversified group of hunters, farmers, conservation officials and landowners all working together to create habitat, restore wetlands, and protect prairies. The organization designs prairie seed mixes; assists landowners with prairie restorations by providing seed, labor and funding for restoration projects; and educates the public about land conservation, working to enroll and assist landowners in federal farm and wetland programs such as EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). With over 120,000 members in 38 states, the efforts of Pheasants Forever members have impacted over 1 million acres of habitat each year.
Pheasants Forever, and its quail division, Quail Forever, empower county and local chapters by giving these individual chapters the responsibility to determine how locally-raised funds are used. Steve Oberle, Treasurer of the Monroe County, Michigan chapter explains, “We raise money locally, and it stays local. We decide how to spend our money. Each year, our chapter provides seed and trees to our members in a spring giveaway. In addition, our Monroe County landowners put in approximately 70 projects each year. These projects include planting native prairie grass, pasture grass, bushes, pine trees and food plots. We are also assisting with the CREP program in Monroe County, by providing planting assistance and advice for these projects.”
The Monroe County PF chapter is heavily involved in an effort to restore habitat in the Lake Hudson State Game area in Lenawee County, MI. This is a large project that will serve as an example for the entire state. Working with landowners, other local PF chapters and the Parks and Recreation Department of the MI Department of Natural Resources, the Monroe County chapter is working to help restore 600 acres of habitat around the lake. Chapter members have removed invasives, cleared trees, and donated seed, money and labor to help restore habitat. The effort is part of a larger initiative aimed at restoring pheasant populations in the state of MI, known as the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative (MPRI). The initiative is designed to help neighbors work together as a “cooperative” to restore and protect habitat. Partners include the MI Department of Natural Resources, PF, Ducks Unlimited, MI United Conservation Clubs, USDA and others. Recognizing the significant decline in pheasant populations throughout the state, MPRI partners are taking action with the goal of restoring 200,000 acres of habitat in Michigan. To learn more about the MPRI and the Hudson Lake cooperative, visit www.michigan.gov/pheasant.
Habitat loss is the major reason for the decline in pheasant and quail populations, which are dependent on high-quality grasslands for food and cover. Changes in agricultural practices, urbanization, and natural succession have all contributed to the loss of prairie habitat. Monarch butterflies face a similar situation. By working together, MJV and PF can restore a significant amount of prairie habitat that will benefit both monarchs and pheasants, as well as other wildlife. Pheasants Forever is already including milkweed in some seed mixes. Pheasants Forever National is now in the process of creating a series of videos designed to promote pheasant, quail and pollinator habitat. This video from PF explains the importance of including milkweed and hoary vervain in a habitat project. Pete Berthelsen, PF Director of Habitat Partnerships, states “Both of these species can be added into your habitat project for just pennies per acre…and they do great things for pheasants, quail, pollinators and our old friend, the monarch butterfly.” You can help by showing your support for this effort. Contact your local PF chapter to find out how you can help on a restoration project near you. Every acre of habitat counts!