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governor's Pheasant habitat work group

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governor's pheasant habitat work group meeting

Meeting #4
Governor's Large Conference Room - June 9, 2014

Work Group Members

Pam Roberts (Chair)
Barry Dunn
Tim Kessler
Representative Mary Duvall
Senator Jason Frerichs (via phone)
John Cooper
Steve Halverson
Jan Nicolay
Jeff Zimprich
Doug Deiter
Secretary Jeff Vonk (not present)
Secretary Lucas Lentsch
Nathan Sanderson


Tony Leif
David Nomsen
Tom Kirschenmann
Bill Smith
Angela Ehlers
Rick Vallery

Welcome & Introductions

Chair Roberts began with a brief discussion on how the PHWG is informing the public/media on progress being made. The PHWG also discussed a timeframe for the final report, identifying that no concrete time has been set for completion. Tentatively, a draft document should be ready by August.

Steve Halverson clarified content and points made in an article published by the Argus Leader and that he did not make statements as written.

Pheasants forever - sd future efforts and initiatives

Tim Kessler announced that David Nomsen will move from Minnesota to Brookings, with PF opening its first field office in SD. A formal news release would be coming out today (June 9) providing details of efforts/initiatives. This effort is an approved plan and desire of the PF national board.

Areas of interest/focus

One specific area of interest is looking at ways to expand Farm Bill biologists across the state. To position these biologists, PF has partnered with GFP and NRCS. Pheasants Forever Farm Bill biologists have been in place since 2004, working with landowners to maximize farm bill conservation programs and provide assistance in enrolling desired acres. Currently there are 7 and the desire would be to double the number of biologists. With this desire, PF plans to look at ways to expand current efforts and relationships with its current partners (GFP, SDSU, NRCS, etc.).

Conservation Certification work group

Lucas Lentsch and Barry Dunn provided an update on the Conservation Certification Program concept. Dunn mentioned that it would be critical for the Association of Conservation Districts to be engaged, as well as other entities such as NGO's.

Rep. Duvall reminded the PHWG that this program is bigger than pheasant habitat and should be mentioned in final report. Jeff Zimprich reiterated that this effort will take a long-term commitment and additional work needs to be completed. Zimprich also noted he is receiving calls with questions on this idea, and pointed out that several producers are already operating at a high level of conservation. This program concept should not only be a means of recognizing folks, but to also find other incentives and bonuses to elevate conservation work.

Action Item: Work Group to draft summary recommendation to include in the final report by July meeting.

rcpp work group

Jeff Zimprich distributed a few pages from the NRCS national website which describes the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) as well as maps illustrating the national Critical Conservation Areas (CCAs) designated by the Secretary of Agriculture. Two of the national CCAs overlap in South Dakota, the Prairie Grasslands Region and the Mississippi River Basin. As a result, the entire state is covered by a CCA, except for the Black Hills.

Zimprich mentioned the opportunity for SD to utilize the RCPP program to address some habitat needs, however the real challenge now is to determine which level to submit a potential proposal as they must be submitted at either the CCA, national, or state level.

John Cooper provided additional information on an "integrated approach" under an umbrella which all available conservation and habitat programs would be available and presented to landowners/producers when they come to an NRCS office. Cooper noted that one of the main problems with current delivery of programs is that most entities take a singular approach when providing conservation programs. All programs available should be presented at the time a landowner comes to an NRCS office as this is their primary destination for assistance.

Halverson suggested it would be good to have a website with all conservation and habitat programs so interested parties do not have to navigate multiple websites. Halverson also suggested that efforts do not focus too heavily on the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) as the study from SDSU shows grassland and wetlands being lost West River as well.

The PHWG agreed that a one-stop website with all available programs would be useful, the question is who would spear-heard putting together the suite of programs and provide the host site and updates? Another question that needs answering is whether individual entities are willing to give up control of programs to allow Farm Bill biologists to deliver all programs?

Two recommendations discussed by the PHWG are as follows:

  1. Short-term Recommendation: Governor directs GFP to bring all folks together to create a plan to provide the one-stop shopping center with all available habitat programs.
  2. Long-term Recommendation: Recommend all relevant players coordinate each year to assure programs and delivery is working and in place.

GFP game production area management opportunities

As requested by the Work Group, Tony Leif, Wildlife Division Director, provided a summary of a "wish list" of Game Production Area (GPA) habitat based projects, access improvements, personnel, and equipment considerations compiled by habitat management staff. Additional financial resources made available to implement "wish list" projects and practices would allow further habitat development and management above and beyond the work currently completed each year on GPAs.

Current habitat development efforts on GPAs consist of establishing nesting cover, winter woody habitat, and food habitat plots. Primary annual management efforts focus on maintenance and operation, such as noxious weed control, fence maintenance work, prescribed burning, managed grazing, and access improvements. These development and management activities are funded through a federal aid grant that matches 75% Pittman-Robertson funds to 25% state license dollars.

GPA Habitat Opportunities Summary

GPA Habitat Development and Management Practices
Habitat development and management opportunities were identified as either on-going or one-time funding needs, as well as funding needs to build the infrastructure to enhance grassland management through livestock grazing. Additional resources obligated to both on-going and one-time practices and activities would provide additional capacity and flexibility to existing personnel and fiscal resources to annually develop and manage more habitat acres on GPAs than is currently occurring.

On-going habitat development and management opportunities

One-time habitat development opportunities

Grassland management opportunities through grazing

Total Habitat Development and Management Practices = $3,100,950

GPA Access Improvement Opportunities
Providing hunter access to specific habitats such as wetlands or more "remote" locations of a GPA is a priority of the department. Needed improvements related to access include developing new or improving existing trails and parking areas.

Total Access Improvement Opportunities = $112,050

Personnel Considerations
Efficiently and effectively managing over 270,000 acres of GPA requires work by both GFP staff (permanent and seasonal) and outside contractors. To accomplish habitat developments and projects over and above those currently being conducted annually on GPAs, additional human resources are required.

GPA Habitat Development and Management Equipment
Several equipment and implement needs were identified as necessary for existing habitat management and development efforts, as well as for completing new habitat projects. Equipment wish list examples include items such as mowing and spraying equipment, discs and other ground preparation implements, drills for seeding native grasses, various sized row planters, ATVs, equipment trailers, skid steers with tree removal/shearer attachments, and tractors.

Total Equipment Identified = $885,200

Total GPA Habitat Opportunities = $4,474,200 - $4,898,200
(Low end includes estimated expenditures with Personnel Consideration A included and the high end includes expenditures with Personnel Consideration B.)

discussion of "top ideas"

(ideas are not listed in order of priority or preference)

The PHWG generated and began discussing a list of "top ideas" at the May meeting to formulate approaches and recommendations to address or implement habitat solutions. At the June meeting, discussions continued and updates were provided on some of the ideas.

Idea #1 - Conservation Certification Proposal
Update and action item are described in the Conservation Certification Work Group section located earlier in the June meeting notes.

Idea #2 - Leverage/Maximize Farm Bill Opportunities
Update and action item are described in the RCPP Work Group section located earlier in the June meeting notes.

Idea #3 - Wildlife habitat development related to Game Production Areas (GPAs)
Update and action item are described in the GFP Game Production Area Management Opportunities section located earlier in the June meeting notes.

Idea #4 - Conservation Education
As discussed at the May PHWG meeting, conservation education is a priority and the importance of creating mechanisms to better inform or assist landowners with conservation decisions has been identified. Nathan Sanderson will work with Jan Nicolay and Barry Dunn to draft an approach and recommendation for July meeting.

Idea #5 - Need for permanent grassland cover and increasing winter wheat acres
Further discussion of the PHWG on this topic resulted in two considerations. First, this concept can be incorporated into the education/outreach section of the final report, especially results from a GFP/SDSU study which evaluated the importance of winter wheat for pheasant production. Second, the consideration of including some type of increased benefits or "scorability" should be incorporated into the Conservation Certification program discussed. As a result of these two considerations, this top idea would be eliminated from the list.

Idea #6 - Finding a home for marginal acres
Discussion by the group determined that this concept will be incorporated into several items addressed with the final report, thus it is not deemed necessary to have as a stand-alone idea. In particular, it fits within the management tool concept suggested by Doug Dieter. The group agreed that some ideas need to be shared with the State Technical Committee and opened for discussion.

Idea #7 - On-going funding source for habitat and conservation
Work group members developed a short list of one-time and on-going funding needs. Additional funding ideas are to be provided prior to the July meeting.

Short list of ideas generated during the June meeting that need funding.
- Pheasants Forever Farm Bill biologists
- GFP habitat work on GPAs
- Website to house all programs
- Grant programs (RCPP and need for match funds)
- Dieter Tool (tool to demonstrate to landowners the fiscal results of farming certain acres while leaving other acres for habitat)
- How does FWS needs fit into this discussion?
- Education/Outreach

Idea #8 - Public Road Rights of Way
Brief discussion revolved around existing state rules that apply to the state highway system and the start dates which allowing haying and mowing activities (do not apply to county and township roads). It was also clarified that these existing rules are found with the Department of Transportation, not Department of Game, Fish and Parks.

Idea #9 - Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)
No further discussion occurred over the James River CREP, however it will be part of the discussion at the July PHWG meeting as related to funding items as either a one-time or on-going funding need.

Idea #10 - State Lands Management Plans
At the May PHWG meeting, the recommendation was brought forward that each parcel of state owned land should have a management plan in place, including road rights-of-way. Further discussion at the June meeting led to the decision that road rights-of-way need to be removed from any such discussion/consideration. The other key element discussed was the need for the report to point out that management plans must fit within the mission and objectives of each agency responsible for managing those respective lands.

other suggestions from phwg members

Barry Dunn suggested that all recommendations need to include a tie back to answering ideas and suggestions from those attending the Summit.

Dieter stated the final report should include what the state plans to do on state owned properties.

Included in the final report should be a summary of new federal Farm Bill programs as comments received at the Summit were prior to the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill.

The final report needs to acknowledge producers/landowners already doing a great job developing and enhancing habitat on their properties.

Action Item: Prior to July meeting, Nathan will have a working draft of all the PHWG's recommendations for the group's review.


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