- Crawford County Landfill Reclamation Project -$25,000 Grand Prize Winner -
Historically tall grass prairie covered 70-80% of Iowa’s landscape with such species as big bluestem, butterfly milkweed, prairie cord grass, and pale purple coneflower. This tall grass prairie created ideal habitat for Iowa’s wildlife. Today, only small protected remnants of the tall grass prairie remain equal to less than 1/10 of 1% of Iowa’s land area.
Iowa land in public ownership is very limited. Public areas can only serve as islands of wildlife habitat in a landscape dominated by row crops and urban sprawl. As a result, fulfilling the habitat needs of the state's diverse wildlife species requires natural resources and wildlife habitat to be reestablished. The Crawford County Conservation Board operates and maintains 22 individual parks, wildlife areas, public hunting areas and a historical site covering 1,115 acres. This is approximately 0.2% of the total acres in the county. The proposed project would add an additional 13% to this public land area that is available for hunting, bird watching, conservation education and public enjoyment.
The target species of this project is the ring-neck Pheasant, the most important game bird in Iowa. Pheasants are found on farmlands throughout Iowa and Crawford County. Pheasants are most numerous on lands that have a good mixture of row crops, small grains, hay, idle grassland, and wetlands. Pheasant populations peaked in the 1940s with numbers estimated as high 500 birds per square mile. This population has declined to less than 15 birds per square mile over much of Iowa since 1970. The lack of safe nesting habitat is the primary reason for the decline. Safe nesting habitat is disappearing because present agricultural policy favors increased acreage in row crops at the expense of small grains, hay land, idle grassland and pasture. The proposed project will add 145 acres of quality nesting habitat for pheasants, small game animals, deer, turkeys and waterfowl.
Full Project Scope
The need for increased habitat and conservation improvements is great. The challenges to make these improvements are many but the time to implement and make these improvements is now. In 2007, the Crawford County Landfill was closed and moved its operation to a solid waste transfer station and recycling center. This closure left 145 acres of open space that will forever remain in the possession of Crawford County. This area is environmentally safe and continually monitored by Crawford County Landfill staff and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources but can never be developed or farmed again; thus creating a unique situation to develop additional habitat and native acres in Crawford County.
Reclaiming the landfill will be accomplished by seeding 6.5 acres of native forbs and grasses, planting 450 trees, and construction of an outdoor classroom shelter. The forb seeding and tree planting will increase nesting habitat for pheasants, small game animals and birds. Plantings of this type are proven to increase nesting success for game birds. The outdoor classroom shelter will be utilized by local school student to learn about nature and the environment in the outdoors. This setting will also provide a unique learning experience for students and the public as to how a landfill can be redeveloped and used for the benefit of nature and the public. The Crawford County Landfill Commission has agreed to allow for public use of this area including hunting.
Crawford County Pheasants Forever members believe the future of conservation and the hunting heritage depends upon today's youth having the desire and opportunities to carry on the ethical traditions of this organization. At both the national and chapter level, Pheasants Forever is investing in sound programs enriched with events such as youth mentor hunts, conservation events and habitat projects. The goals of Pheasants Forever’s Reload Iowa Program is to establish and improve 1,000,000 acres of wildlife habitat across the state. Locally, the goal is to improve 3,400 acres in Crawford County; this project will supplement this effort. These efforts will increase Iowa’s pheasant and quail populations, as well as the number of upland bird hunters. These increases will also generate additional hunting related revenues to local communities.
The proposed project has many social benefits as well. Over time, increased urbanization, loss of small farms, less leisure time, and more school activities, youngsters today are becoming more alienated from the land. One means of combating this movement away from the natural environment is through youth outdoor programs. As with past habitat improvement projects, area school and youth groups have been active participants. Pheasants Forever volunteers and NRCS staff will supervise youth as they plant trees and shrubs to increase habitat on the property. These youth groups will include high school vocational ag students, Boy Scouts, and Denison Ringneck Club members (middle school age students). This project will provide area youth a hands-on experience to improve the habitat in area while enjoying the outdoors.
As the planting phase of the project is complete, youth groups and classes will be able to learn about the importance of natural habitat and conservation at the outdoor classroom that will be built upon the site. This structure overlooks the entire site providing a unique overlook on the City of Denison southeast of the project site. For generations, elders have passed on the traditions of their outdoor heritage to the next generation - through stories, shared experiences and support and encouragement. Times have changed, however, and not all young people have those opportunities today. This project will provide a unique chance for youth to experience and improve the land in their community while learning how these improvements will benefit the environment and provide additional opportunities for hunting and for those to simply enjoy the outdoors.
- Habitat for Homecroft – $5,000 Runner-Up Winner -
The major conservation need addressed with this project is providing youth with the opportunity to learn outdoors and develop an appreciation for nature. "Humans do not value what they do not understand and have not built an attachment to", so this project strives to provide hands on conservation education to our youth. It is the goal of this project that these youth will carry the torch of wildlife conservation in to the future as they become our community leaders.
Secondarily, this project will re-establish natural and functional habitat for native flora and fauna with the addition of a new wetland. Currently, the land is overgrown and virtually unusable by wildlife. The reestablished habitat will provide both food and cover for native species, allowing the school children to observe animals in their most natural environment while teaching the value of conserved lands and wildlife.
Full Project Scope
Habitat for Homecroft includes the purchase of county tax forfeit land adjacent to a school which is a community hub in a rural area of Minnesota's third largest city.
Habitat for Homecroft will provide a habitat project for the school and community to participate, teaching youth about conservation, indicator species, native and non-native flora and fauna, establish a new wetland and restore habitat for native species.
This project will establish an outdoor classroom/learning environment where school and community youth will recieve hands on learning about wildlife ecology, conservation and biology. This outdoor classroom will be able to support all of the core competencies required by public school system while encouraging youth to become involved with our natural environment and have true hands-on learning and experiences outdoors.
The primary goal of this project is to provide hands-on environmental educational opportunities. Youth and community have been involved from the planning stage and will be involved through completion and maintenance of the habitat restoration. This provides education in what are native and non-native species, invasive species, conservation values, and cross-curriculum integration.
The addition of a wetland allows for the current activity field to be used year round. Directing rainflow to the wetland establishes new habitat for migrating waterfowl, a watering hole for other species, and reclaims an unusable field. Creating proper wetland also assists in protection water shed area, promotes proper life cycle in reestablished habitat, and provides an area for migrating waterfowl to rest and nest whereas they are currently unable in that area.
2012 GRANT RECIPIENTS
SportDOG Brand® Conservation Fund has awarded $21,000 to 4 conservation groups as part of our annual grant program, and another $1,000 for the Kids in Conservation grant. This year marked a record number of applications. We are excited to see this program grow. Each year has seen a record number of applicants for these grants. We believe it's important for us to continue giving something back to the conservation initiatives our team and our customers care about.
Grant recipients are chosen by the Conservation Fund Grant Review committee, and are based on which projects most align with SportDOG Brand's conservation goals. We're excited about being able to contribute to these types of projects that will benefit wildlife for generations to come.
In 2012, grants were awarded as follows:
- Pheasants Forever Stutsman County North Dakota Native Grass Drill -
Pheasants Forever will receive $5,000 for a no-till drill to be stationed in Jamestown, North Dakota for use on both public and private lands throughout Stutsman County. Currently, individuals looking to seed high-diversity grassland habitat in Stutsman County have to go outside their county, and often out of state, to rent a drill or hire a private vendor to complete their habitat projects. With the current decline in Conservation Reserve Program acres, any new acre for wildlife is a win for conservation. This drill will help eliminate the battle of getting the proper equipment to get that new habitat in the ground. It will not only be beneficial to the people of Stutsman County, but also to sportsmen and women across the nation that hunt in North Dakota.
The purchase of a no-till drill will directly benefit wildlife by creating/enhancing habitat within the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota. The region is also known as the "duck factory" of North America because of all the waterfowl in the area. Not only does the region provide habitat for wildlife species, it is a common hunting destination for sportsmen and women across the country. Not only will this project help citizens realize their habitat goals it will also benefit all of us who travel to North Dakota to enjoy the natural resources and ample wildlife populations the state has to offer. At its peak, North Dakota had 3.7 million acres of wildlife habitat as a result of the Conservation Reserve Program. However, in recent years CRP acres and the wildlife habitats they provide are being lost. With high agricultural commodity prices and CRP rental rates unable to keep pace, there is no foreseeable end in sight to the loss of wildlife habitat. North Dakota stands to lose hundreds of acres of habitat through expiring CRP contracts.
Not all is doom and gloom for wildlife in North Dakota, however; with recent wet conditions, the opportunity to enroll cropland containing farmed wetlands and adjacent uplands into Continuous Conservation Reserve Program practices and create new habitat is better than ever. A majority of existing CRP in Stutsman County is low diversity grassland habitat. While this grassland habitat provides needed nesting for upland game birds and waterfowl, it is not high quality brooding habitat. Quality brooding habitat is essential to upland game birds such as Sharp-tailed Grouse and Ring-necked Pheasants. Brood habitat should have a high diversity of broad-leaved plants to attract insects and provide overhead protection from predators. Currently, the equipment needed to plant high diversity habitats is unavailable or difficult for producers to access in the county to accomplish habitat goals. By having proper equipment available within the county, producers enrolling in Continuous CRP will be able to establish high quality habitat.
By purchasing this drill, Pheasants Forever hopes to establish 5,000 acres of new wildlife habitat annually through perrennial grass cover or annual crops and to enhance 1,000 acres of existing wildlife habitat through inter-seeding to increase plant diversity.
- Delta Waterfowl Quantifying Landscape Effects on Predation Rates of Nesting Waterfowl in North Dakota -
Delta Waterfowl will receive $5,000 to analyze over 10,000 known nests with known survival and location to document patterns of nest loss an or success. Master’s candidate Jason Stelzer will determine the effects of landscape features (proximity to roads, wetlands, tree rows, abandoned buildings, rock piles, etc.) on nest survival. This large data set will provide detailed results to inform future habitat management.
As hatching rates (nest success/nest survival) are the most limiting factor for duck production, understanding the patterns of nest loss is critical in deploying habitat management. Especially in light of the continued erosion of CRP nesting cover and native grasslands, understanding how landscape features positively or negatively affect hatching rates can aid managers in fashioning habitat programs with the best chance of success at increasing duck nests.
The project will evaluate patterns of nest success on 12 study sites in Eastern/Northeastern North Dakota and the results will be transferable over a significant portion of the United States and Canadian Prairie Pothole Region.
- North Dakota Sharp Tail Grouse Nesting Ecology -
The University of North Dakota will receive $5,000 to evaluate Sharp-tailed Grouse nesting ecology, specifically nest predation issues, inside and outside of gas and oil development on Sharp-tailed Grouse. Baseline data is needed on reproduction, cause-specific nest mortalities, and nesting habitat to determine the impacts of gas and oil development on population dynamics of Sharp-tailed Grouse. The Grassland Conservation Plan for Prairie Grouse has identified understanding impacts of this development on prairie grouse species as a research priority in order to better inform future management decisions for these important game birds. The broader implications of study findings should guide management efforts for prairie grouse species in the face of changing land uses and will help ensure the persistence of the bird for future generations.
Sharp-tailed Grouse are an important and widely hunted upland game species in North Dakota. Historically, grouse hunting has played an important role in recreational hunting opportunities in North Dakota. Furthermore, the Dakota Prairie Grasslands lists the Sharp-tailed Grouse as a management indicator species within the Grasslands Plan, and is therefore a species of particular concern for the US Forest Service (USFS) in land-use planning within native grasslands of western North Dakota.
To accomplish this, Sharp-tailed Grouse will be monitored on three sites in western North Dakota to learn how gas and oil development is impacting nest survival and cause-specific nest mortality. Female Sharp-tailed Grouse will be marked with radio-tags so they can be monitored for nesting activity throughout the 2012 and 2013 breeding seasons. When females appear to be nesting (found in the same location on two consecutive days), visual searches will be conducted to confirm the presence of a nest. When the incubating bird is away from the nest, researchers will install a small 24-hour nest camera to monitor nesting activities and identify predations in the event of nest failure. Studies have found that without the use of nest cameras, it is very difficult to accurately identify predators. Camera placement will be approximately 1 meter from the nest and camouflaged using surrounding vegetation to minimize any effects from researchers.
Videos will be reviewed to determine differences in nest predation rates among the sites and any potential differences in nesting behaviors observed as a result of the habitat features associated with gas and oil activities. Predictive models will be constructed to examine habitat features influencing the probability of nest survival and the predators responsible for nest failures to be used to inform future management of the species with respect to predation and energy development.
- Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Quail Restoration -
Tate Ervin, with help from the MS Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, will lead a project to utilize prescribed and controlled burns to cultivate approximately 175 acres of land into adequate quail habitat. Korean Lespedeza will also be planted in the area to provide a food source for quails and turkeys as well as cover for quails.
Controlled and prescribed burns will be utilized to prepare 145 acres of land for preparation of restoring the quail population in the area. These burns are designed to maintain early stages of plant succession as required by bobwhites. They will also reduce leaves and needles from the forest floor, exposing soil so quails can easily find seeds. This encourages open foraging and travel areas for hens with young chicks as well as nurtures plants that provide food, in the form of insects and seeds, and cover for the quails. Patchy burns are best for quail populations so ring-arounds, circular areas plowed around and protected from burns, will be utilized in the winter season to provide safe nesting ground for the birds come April.
In addition, roughly an acre of Korean Lespedeza will be planted in the spring/early summer of 2012 for quails and turkeys. This is an excellent seed producer for quails and other upland birds. The seeds are hard and may lie on the ground for long periods of time producing a dependable winter food source. Reseeds will transpire annually with a light disking each fall, therefore providing benefits for years to come.
This project will establish proper conservation techniques to not only allow a restoration of the quail population but also to ensure the population survives and thrives for future hunters.
- *YOUTH GRANT* Marion County Pheasants Forever Annual Youth Day -
Marion County Pheasants Forever will receive $1,000 to help host their 12th annual Youth Day. This event helps educate area youth on the importance of conservation. Many area youths have been introduced to the outdoors and all it has to offer through this great event.
Marion County Pheasants Forever makes it a goal to get kids in the outdoors who might not otherwise have the opportunity. Their annual youth event accomplishes this by providing area youth enjoyable activities only offered by the outdoors. The event will be hosted November 12, 2012 in Waldo, OH.
2011 GRANT RECIPIENTS
SportDOG Brand® Conservation Fund has awarded $20,000 to 4 conservation groups as part of its annual grant program, and another $1,000 for the newly created Kids in Conservation. "We received 22 grant applications this year for our grant program and another 12 for our Kids in Conservation Grant, the most since we started the programs," said Eleanor Marshall, with SportDOG Brand. "The variety of projects and the creative ways that organizations are finding to improve and restore wildlife habitat makes the selection process inspiring for all of us at SportDOG. We are really proud to be associated with these conservation difference-makers." Grant recipients are chosen by the Conservation Fund Grant Review committee, and are based on which projects most align with SportDOG Brand's conservation goals. We're excited about being able to contribute to these types of projects that will benefit wildlife for generations to come.
In 2011, grants were awarded as follows:
- The Indiana Department of Natural Resources -
The IDNR will receive $5,000 to assist with the purchase of a tree-cutting tool for the expansion and maintenance of grassland and old-field habitat on the IDNR's Salamonie Reservoir property. More than 1,200 acres are in need of succession control for the benefit of woodcock and upland birds and animals.
This tree cutter will allow the IDNR to treat more acres of overgrown habitat that are not currently treatable with present tools. Small trees and large shrubs will be cut to promote early-successional habitat. Projects that are implemented with this tool will include clearing the fields adjacent to wetlands for waterfowl nesting, cutting alder stands to improve habitat for American woodcocks, tree-cutting in over-grown fields to increase grassland and old-field habitat for rabbits and quails, maintenance of fire lanes for controlled burns, and invasive species removal in upland game areas.
- Pheasants Forever and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers -
Pheasants Forever will receive $5,000 for a habitat reclamation project in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. 50 years ago, a flood control project, the Francis E. Walter Dam, left 250 acres of barren land in the area. Working together, PF and the Corps now have a goal of restoring native plant life to the area, creating viable habitat and food sources for wildlife, and providing a quality experience for visitors to the project site. Click here for more.
UPDATE: A record spring rainfall caused a 3 week delay in planting season in Northern Pennsylvania. Despite this set back, these organizations were able to move quickly after the fields and topsoil pits dried out enough to have hundreds of tons of topsoil delivered and spread on the most barren project areas. Six inches of compressed topsoil provided a base for 3 different food plants, measuring around 2 acres each.
The construction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control project of Francis E. Walter Dam, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, began in 1957 and was completed in 1961. Its construction required a vast amount of topsoil to be excavated from approximately 250 acres of Army Corps property which comprises the current project site, open to public access for recreation and hunting opportunities. This area that was stripped of topsoil remains fallow with little to no herbaceous growth and is referred to as a borrow area. The borrow area has reduced land which was once farm fields, pastures, and woodland meadows to a moonscape of barren, rocky, hardpan subsoil. This land was no longer suitable for the support of native plants and wildlife.
Nearly 50 years later, little has changed. The areas stripped of topsoil remain essentially barren, except for the encroachment of invasive plant species, scrub pine, scrub birch, and weeds. Few of the native plants capable of providing any habitat or food value for wildlife exist in these borrow areas.
About three years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers at Francis Walter and Pheasants Forever, Chapter 803, started working together with shared goals. The goals were to restore native plant life to barren areas, to create viable habitat and food sources for all animal life, and to provide a quality experience for those who enjoy the forests, fields, and wildlife on the Army Corps of Engineers project site. The following wildlife habitat restoration and management plan was developed.
The overall goal of this project is to provide native grasses, shrubs, trees and food plots that will enhance shelter and increase brooding and nesting opportunities for all upland species. It will also control erosion, improve soil quality, and limit the encroachment of invasive plant species. This will hopefully increase the number of nesting pheasants and other upland game birds to provide more positive dog training and hunting experiences to the several gun dog clubs that use the project area.
Both organizations also hope to increase the quality of hunting opportunities for young, beginning hunters who have been enrolled in mentored youth pheasant hunts with trained bird dogs over the last several years. These hunts are sponsored by North East Pennsylvania Pheasants Forever in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
- Ruffed Grouse Society -
RGS will receive $5,000 to put toward restoring a ruffed grouse population in Missouri's River Hills Conservation Opportunity Area in Callaway, Montgomery, and Warren counties. The current scarce grouse numbers in the area will be supplemented with 120-180 captured and relocated grouse from Pennsylvania.
Ruffed Grouse were stocked in Missouri from 1959-1962 in appropriate habitat locations. These stockings were successful and populations expanded in the state for the next 40 years, with a ruffed grouse hunting season occurring in the state for many of those years. In the early 1990s, grouse populations began to decrease as available habitat matured and essential early successional forest habitat was lost.
In 2000, a group of partners that included the Missouri Department of Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Ruffed Grouse Society, and others organized to address this habitat decline. Management activities to maintain the young forest habitat component, specifically the oak-hickory type, in a three-county area in East Central Missouri were implemented on state and private lands. The majority of these targeted lands included or were adjacent to state conservation areas, identified as the potential core areas for the project. To date, over 10,000 acres of habitat have been improved in the project area through a variety of funding avenues.
Monitoring of bird populations in the area showed an increase in songbird numbers, but grouse numbers remain very low and were not responding to habitat improvements. Due to the low residual Ruffed Grouse population in Missouri, an emergency closure to the Ruffed Grouse season was imposed by the Missouri Department of Conservation during the 2010 season. It has been determined that restocking of Ruffed Grouse from other states is needed to recharge this population. This project will restock 120-180 Ruffed Grouse from Pennsylvania to supplement a scarce residual population of native grouse in the River Hills Conservation Opportunity Area.
- Pheasants Forever and Future Farmers of America -
Pheasants Forever will receive $5,000 to launch a curriculum with the Leopold Education Project entitled Operation: Save the Quail. 6th grade students will participate in various initiatives to build a curriculum to spread the goals of this project to educational systems throughout the United States. The initial class of Operation: Save the Quail won a national award from the Disney Planet Challenge Contest.
Pheasants Forever is working with the Leopold Education Project to create a guide on how to work with schools, local Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever chapters, and other partners on similar community habitat projects that also meet curriculum standards for middle school students. This guide will be incorporated into training workshops and conferences for outreach partners and will be distributed through the Leopold Education Project's network of educators and chapter leaders. Ultimately, the goal of this project is to create school habitat projects across the country.
- *YOUTH GRANT*The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation (TWRF) -
TWRF has been awarded $1,000 to further the Tennessee Kids in Outdoors (TKO) Program. TWRA founded the TKO program in 2010 with the goal of encouraging youths to get outside and enjoy learning about nature.
Too many of today's youths are not connected to the land. It is important to keep future generations engaged in the outdoors and in outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing. With this in mind, the TWRA introduced the Tennessee Kids in Outdoors program in 2010. Piloted in Middle Tennessee, the program has already assisted over 5,000 youths in getting away from their television sets and going outside.
In 2011, TWRF looks to expand the program state wide. The agency has partnered with various organizations, including SportDOG, Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, Cumberland Rivers Compact, and many city and county agencies to provide funding and education related to outdoor youth activities. These events include: Fishing days, youth squirrel, rabbit, deer and dove hunts, NWTF Jakes days, and many other events. Through state-wide expansion, TKO hopes to assist many more children get outside to learn about habitat conservation and outdoor sporting and recreation.