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governor's Pheasant habitat work group

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governor's pheasant habitat work group meeting

Meeting #1
Governor's Large Conference Room - February 28, 2014

Work Group Members

Pam Roberts (Chair)
Barry Dunn
Tim Kessler
Mary Duvall
Jason Frerichs (joined via telephone)
John Cooper
Steve Halverson
Jan Nicolay
Jeff Zimprich (Jeff Vander Wilt, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs, in his stead)
Doug Deiter
Jeff Vonk
Lucas Lentsch
Nathan Sanderson


Tony Leif
Angela Ehlers
David Nomsen
Larry Nelson
Trudy Wastweet
Tom Kirschenmann

Welcome & Introductions

Chair Roberts provided opening remarks and ground rules. Meetings open to the public, but are not open to public comment and the Work Group will not take public testimony. Comments and suggestions from the public continue and can be submitted through the Department of Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) website. Individuals can provide recommendations and suggestions at

Governor's Goals for the Working Group

Nathan Sanderson provided a general overview of the expectations and goals of the Work Group. Sanderson reiterated to the Work Group that the Governors' focus is pheasant habitat. Ultimately, the Work Group will develop recommendations to the Governor that focus on practical solutions for maintaining and improving pheasant habitat. Ideas and solutions generated by the Work Group will be provided in a final report for the Governor.

Jeff Vonk - Important that at the end of the process there is a specific list of opportunities to present to the public such as new programs, incentives, or other approaches.

Nathan Sanderson - The Work Group will need to solidify ideas that make the most sense which can move the bar for pheasant habitat.

John Cooper - Asked the question how does the Work Group continue to communicate with the public? How do we report back to the public on discussions and progress made from on-going meetings?

Nathan Sanderson - Continually update the public through the GFP website. Governor's Pheasant Habitat Summit is listed on front page and all applicable information will be posted.

Action Item: Chair Roberts suggested a news release after the first meeting to notify the public of meeting held, structure, and discussion topics.

Proposed Timeline for Work Group

Chair Roberts provided the Work Group an outline of the tentative approach to complete the Work Group's tasks. The Work Group plans to meet approximately every month with the second meeting to take place during the first two weeks of April. The final report is due late summer. Current approach is to hold half day meetings, but will make adjustments accordingly based on agenda.

Action Item: Work Group members are to send Nathan Sanderson open dates during the first two weeks of April (March 31-April 11).

Pheasant Habitat Summit Recap & Current Situation

Tony Leif presented a summary of the Summit held in Huron. Around 400 people attended. Approximately 1,000 people joined via webcast; average listening time of just over an hour (indicating high interest). Input from the public has been collected through the Summit break-out sessions, a follow-up survey to Summit registrants, and comments submitted via emails, phone calls, and letters.

Barry Dunn suggested to the Work Group that two events occurred over the last year which has escalated many discussions on habitat changes in South Dakota. The first was the article released by researchers from South Dakota State University (Wright and Wimberly) describing landscape changes and the loss of grassland acres. This article received criticism from many agriculture entities and resulted in other evaluations and reports such as released by Farm Bureau. The second event was the release of the 2013 pheasant brood report by GFP. Results from this survey opened the eyes to many people of the changes taking place and inspired them to take notice.

Barry Dunn provided a handout which entailed three figures from a new research project conducted at SDSU on grassland loss. This project used a different approach than Wimberly and Wright and used data from 2006-2012. Results show about 1.84 million acres changed from grassland to agriculture production land. Results are not yet published, but will go through a peer review process and published in 2014. The consensus from Work Group was that even though this information has not yet been published, it will be a useful tool and insightful piece of information for their discussions.

John Cooper - A common question asked is how much of grassland acres that have broken are Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres versus other grassland types. Approximately 700,000-750,000 acres of CRP lost since its peak enrollment.

Jeff Vander Wilt - Once these new research findings are published, it will be a useful piece of information to be used by NRCS to focus farm bill programs.

Work Group members were provided a booklet which included all the suggestions collected from the Summit break-out sessions, responses from the Summit follow-up survey, suggestions on pheasant habitat improvements gathered from the public, and copies of the Powerpoint presentations given by Tony Leif and Barry Dunn at the Summit. A copy of the South Dakota Pheasant Management Plan was distributed and copies of the Pheasant Book were made available for members who had not yet received one.

Discussion of Conservation Title in Farm Bill

Jeff Vander Wilt provided handouts and discussed various conservation programs of the recently passed federal Farm Bill.

Jeff Vander Wilt commented that SD should fare well with the new farm bill and conservation programs available because of the many focused efforts towards the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR).

Action Item: NRCS to present state budget/allocations and detailed update for all conservation programs, and details of honeybee initiative and grassland retention projects at the April meeting. (45 minutes)

Action Item: Include NRCS handout of farm bill conservation program breakdown with meeting notes on website.

Action Item: NRCS to provide the schedule of CRP contract expirations for both SD and nationally, especially in light of the scale back plan on CRP of 24M acres by 2018.

Presentation of Ideas, Recommendations, and Suggestions Collected

Jeff Vonk described the 3 separate lists of suggestions gathered and included in the Work Group member's booklet: 1) break-out sessions, 2) follow-up survey, and 3) comments received from phone calls, emails, letters, etc.

Barry Dunn suggested there seems to be several themes of misunderstandings and aspects of pheasant management that would be important to provide information to better educate and inform the public. Predators and pheasant stocking are two examples.

Jeff Vonk suggested the importance of smaller working groups be formed between meetings to focus on specific topics.

John Cooper provided conceptual approach of breaking down suggestions into topics such as Private and Public Lands, then further define by specific items and approaches such as Farm Bill programs under private land.

The Work Group agreed on a strategic approach to address non-habitat items by identifying the individual themes, provide information and explanations, and include as part of the final report.

Action Item: Nathan Sanderson, GFP, SDDA will go over entire list of suggestions and provide more concise break-downs for the April meeting. The concise break-downs will be provided to the Work Group 2 weeks prior to meeting.

Action Item: Jeff Vonk will have GFP come up with a non-habitat related items to share with the Work Group at the April meeting.

Facilitated Discussion

Chair Roberts asked each member to provide any suggestions on category breakdowns, other topics to be added or open for consideration, and agenda items for the April meeting.

Jeff Vander Wilt

Steve Halverson

Barry Dunn

Lucas Lentsch

Jan Nicolay

Tim Kessler

Doug Deiter

Mary Duvall

John Cooper

Jeff Vonk

Nathan Sanderson

Discussion on Research Required for Next Meeting

Agenda Items for April Meeting

Agenda Items for May Meeting

Final Remarks

Chair Roberts reminded members the importance of providing Nathan Sanderson open dates for the April meeting. To simplify travel, the April meeting will begin at 10am and conclude at 3pm including a working lunch.