The growing farm sector in South Dakota is threatening prairie wildlife, according to some environmental experts.
In the wake of increased commodity prices due to international demand and ethanol subsidies, farmers across the Great Plains are stepping up production, increasing their crop yields, and expanding their tillable acreage. In some cases, farmers are even opting out of the Conservation Reserve Program, choosing to plant corn rather than leave their fields fallow.
This increased production, however, is accelerating habitat loss and endangering South Dakota wildlife, primarily pheasants.
South Dakota pheasants have been an important part of the state’s culture, economy, and ecology. Pheasant hunting in particular has been a major part of the South Dakota economy and the large pheasant population has been able to support a robust tourist economy.
The increased crop production, however, is threatening the habitat of South Dakota pheasants as farmers across South Dakota are expanding their efforts to drain wetlands and drain water on their property. While doing this allows them to plant more crops, it also destroys the nesting areas of pheasants.
Wildlife experts are predicting a major decline for South Dakota’s ecosystem. According to the former director of South Dakota’s Game, Fish, and Wildlife Department, “Anyone who thinks South Dakota can continue to produce the pheasants, ducks and other wildlife it has in the past just doesn’t know what’s going on here. You’re quite possibly witnessing the end of an era. Some of the nation’s last, best prairies and potholes are going away.”
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer