Brett French reports: Facts for Those with Birds on the Brain
By Kamp Cook

Posted: November 11, 2023

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is updating its Upland Game Bird Enhancement Program Strategic Plan. The public can offer comments through Nov. 30. For those interested in upland birds and their habitat, the plan contains a wealth of information. For example, did you know resident pheasant hunting has declined since peaking in 2006. Likewise, nonresident upland hunting has dropped, hitting its apex in 2008. Yet combined, these hunters contributed an estimated $19.7 million to the state’s economy. Part of the reason for the change is a decline in pheasant populations as more land was taken out of the Conservation Reserve Program, better known as CRP. The program paid farmers to leave land untilled to provide wildlife habitat. In northeastern Montana alone more than a million acres has been removed from CRP. The strategic plan helps guide FWP’s biologists as they work with landowners to improve upland bird habitat. It’s a relatively small program, funded at only $750,000 a year, although a federal grant has helped boost that amount. The nice thing about the projects is that one of the conditions of participation is that landowners allow free public hunter access to lands enrolled. An annual guide provides information on the properties, which can be found online. To learn more, including how the program has changed and evolved over the years, check out my story at the Billings Gazette.

Written by Brett French | Outdoors Editor for Billings Gazette Communications

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