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Ring-necked Pheasant Habitat Focus Area

Ring-necked pheasant

Much of New York State's landscape no longer has the potential to produce wild ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus). Ring-necked pheasants are typically a product of agricultural lands that include small grains, fallow fields and wetland areas that provide winter cover. The quantity of land in small grain agriculture is greatly diminished since the early 1900s and the state is now mostly forested. Efforts such as the Breeding Bird Atlas and Spring and Summer Farmer Pheasant surveys indicate that New York's wild, self-sustaining pheasant population is largely restricted to the Great Lakes Plain in the western part of the state (see figure below). Because of this, efforts to protect, restore, and manage habitat for this species have the greatest chance of success if they are concentrated in this area.

Individually, DEC and its partners do not have the resources necessary to effectively manage for wild pheasants throughout the Lake Plains area. Therefore, we developed a focus area to concentrate current and future habitat management efforts. This will best utilize available resources to determine if maintaining or increasing wild pheasant populations is possible under current biological, social, and fiscal conditions. We feel that pooling resources, sharing information, and concentrating the efforts of government agencies, private organizations, and landowners is a more realistic and effective approach to sustaining a wild pheasant population in New York.

Using agricultural statistics, land use data, current information on pheasant distribution and abundance, and stakeholder input, we delineated a roughly 150,000-acre focus area in the Great Lakes Plain (see figure below). Based on the presence of wild pheasants and the composition of the agricultural landscape in this area, we feel that it has the greatest potential to maintain or increase wild pheasant numbers.

New York State Pheasant Habitat Focus Area

The goal of this effort is to sustain breeding populations of pheasants within the focus area. Our strategy is to: (1) work with our partners (e.g., USDA NRCS, FSA, Pheasants Forever) to provide information to landowners on ways to improve pheasant habitat and how best to use the funding available from government and non-government conservation programs to help implement some of those measures; (2) develop monitoring programs to measure the success of pheasant habitat improvements; and (3) develop guidelines for creation and enhancement of pheasant habitat and provide technical guidance (e.g., planting mixtures, mowing schedules) to promote interest among landowners to manage pheasant habitat within the focus area.

Monitoring Pheasant Populations

If you farm land in Livingston, Genesee, Wyoming or Monroe counties, consider participating in the Farmer-Pheasant Inventory. If you do not farm, but you would like to contribute your pheasant observations, join the Summer Pheasant Sighting Survey (get survey form below).

Farmer-Pheasant Inventory

Farmers in the 13 counties that comprise the Lake Plains of New York have partnered with the department since 1945 to help survey wild pheasant populations. We are pleased to continue this effort in the Pheasant Habitat Focus Area in the Genesee Valley. Surveys like this one will help us monitor the response of pheasant populations to habitat management efforts. No special observations are required; just those made during your normal spring and summer farming activities.

If you are a farmer in Livingston, Genesee, Wyoming or Monroe county and are interested in participating in the Spring Pheasant Inventory (April) or the Summer Pheasant Inventory (August), please contact us at (518) 402-8886, by e-mail, or by writing to "Farmer-Pheasant Inventory", NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754.

Summer Pheasant Sighting Survey

During the month of August, survey participants record the sex and age of all pheasants observed during normal travel in Livingston, Genesee, Wyoming and Monroe counties. This survey will help estimate pheasant production (number of young per adult female pheasant), and over the long-term will help evaluate the success of habitat management efforts in the focus area.

If you would like to participate, you can print or download a Summer Pheasant Sighting Survey (PDF) (252 KB).

Completed surveys can be returned via mail (see address above) or e-mail (as a PDF attachment).

Habitat Conservation Assistance Programs

If you are interested in learning more about the programs available, read the following summary, e-mail us, or visit the New York offices of the NRCS, FSA, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (see off-site links below).

DEC Programs

Grasslands for Wildlife (GFW) - The goal of this program is to establish grassland habitat demonstration areas within the Pheasant Habitat Focus Area. Activities include purchasing $10,000 of warm- and cool-season grass seed annually and distributing it to private landowners to establish grasslands; establishing grasslands 5-40 acres in size; forming partnerships with organizations interested in pheasants and other grassland wildlife; and increasing public awareness of the value of grasslands for pheasants and other grassland wildlife. Site selection is based on public access to the site, public viewing, length of contract (5 or 10 years), potential to increase pheasants, proximity to other cover or food sources, and the site must have at least a one-year history of weed control. Once the best sites are selected, the landowner works with DEC to create a maintenance plan and signs a cooperative agreement.

Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) - The Landowner Incentive Program is funded in part through a 2004 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant, and is administered by DEC. The grassland protection portion of this program pays a flat rate per acre ($55-60 per acre depending on distance to cities) for implementing a site management plan prepared by DEC and Audubon NY. The landowner pays 25% of program costs to meet federal match requirements. Through two rounds of funding, LIP has contracted with almost 30 landowners to protect about 2,600 acres of prime grassland habitat. Currently, LIP is not accepting proposals for the protection of grasslands, but there may be a call for proposals if funding is available.

Federal Programs

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) - Administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), it is a cost-share program and rental payments are provided to the landowner. CRP encourages farmers to convert highly erodible land (HEL) or other environmentally sensitive acreage to an approved vegetative cover through various "Conservation Practices" (CPs). The main goal of CRP is to reduce erosion and soil loss. To be eligible, land must have been planted to an agricultural commodity 4 of the previous 6 years (from 2002-2007) and the landowner must have owned or operated the land for the last 12 months. Acreages are enrolled in contracts for 10 or 15 years.

Conservation Reserve Program State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (CRP-SAFE) - CRP-SAFE is similar to CRP, but is restricted to grassland focus areas. NYSDEC and Audubon NY are technical service providers, preparing management plans and performing inspections. New York has an allocation of Conservation Practices currently limited to "CP-1: Establishment of introduced cool-season grasses".

Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) - An offshoot of CRP, CREP is administered by FSA. FSA works with the state, local government, or non-government organization to identify an agriculture-related environmental issue of state or national significance. These parties and FSA then develop a project proposal to address particular environmental issues and goals. Enrollment in a state is limited to specific geographic areas and practices. CREP contracts require a 10- to 15-year commitment to keep lands out of agricultural production. CREP provides payments to participants who offer eligible land. A federal annual rental rate, including an FSA state committee-determined maintenance incentive payment, is offered, plus a cost-share of up to 50 percent of the eligible costs to install the practice.

Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) - Administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), WHIP provides financial and technical assistance to help participants develop fish and wildlife habitat on private agricultural land, non-industrial private forest land, and Indian land. WHIP in NY has two focus areas which target early successional wildlife habitat for grassland and shrubland birds. The grassland focus enhances grassland habitat for declining bird species and other wildlife. Fields of 10 acres or more are given a high priority. Examples of eligible practices include planting of grasslands with wildflowers and activities like mowing and fertilizing. The shrubland focus manages for native shrub or sapling growth to provide cover for species like Golden-Winger Warbler, New England Cottontail, woodcock, and grouse.

Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) - Administered by NRCS, the goal of WRP is to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands in exchange for retiring eligible land from agriculture. There are three enrollment options offered: (1) Permanent Easement: USDA pays 100% of easement value and up to 100% of restoration costs; (2) 30-year Easement: expires after 30 years; USDA pays up to 75% of easement value and up to 75% of restoration costs; and (3) Restoration cost-share agreement: Agreement to restore or enhance wetland without easement; USDA pays up to 75% of restoration costs.

Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) - Administered by NRCS, FRPP provides matching funds to help purchase development rights to keep productive farm and ranchland in agricultural uses. To qualify, farmland must be part of a pending offer from a State, tribe, or local farmland protection program; be privately owned; have a conservation plan for highly erodible land; be large enough to sustain agricultural production; be accessible to markets for what the land produces; have adequate infrastructure and agricultural support services; and have surrounding parcels of land that can support long-term agricultural production. Depending on funding availability, proposals must be submitted by the eligible entities to the appropriate NRCS State Office during the application window. In NY, this program is partially administered by NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) - Administered by NRCS, CSP encourages agricultural and forestry producers to address resource concerns by undertaking additional conservation activities and improving and maintaining existing conservation. Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, prairie land, improved pastureland, rangeland, nonindustrial private forest land. The landowner must be an active and registered agricultural operator. CSP provides two possible types of payments: annual payment available for installing new conservation activities and maintaining existing practices and a supplemental payment available for adopting a resource-conserving crop rotation.

Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) - GRP is a NRCS program for landowners to protect grazing uses and related conservation values by conserving grassland, including rangeland, pastureland, shrubland, and certain other lands. The program emphasizes support for working grazing operations; enhancement of plant and animal biodiversity; and protection of grassland and land containing shrubs and forbs under threat of conversion. GRP is jointly administered by FSA and NRCS. Enrollees have two options: rental contracts or easements.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) - EQIP, administered by NRCS, provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers through contracts up to a maximum term of ten years. These contracts provide financial assistance to help plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns and improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related resources on agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland. To be eligible, landowners must have land in agricultural or forest production. "Subprograms" or EQIP initiatives in NY include the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP), Conservation Activity Plans (CAP), Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG), and Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI).

Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (PFW) - A voluntary program administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help protect, enhance and restore wildlife habitat. The program is designed for use on privately owned (non-federal) lands, providing landowners with technical and financial assistance to restore fish and wildlife habitats. The list of partners includes other federal agencies, state and local governments, educational institutions, businesses, conservation organizations, and private landowners. Conservation activities in New York include wetland restoration, grassland restoration, in-stream restoration, stream bank stabilization and restoration, and restoration of riparian and floodplain areas.

The following links will take you off the DEC website:

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) - Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), Grassland Reserve Program (GRP)

Farm Service Agency (FSA) - Conservation Reserve Program-State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (CRP-SAFE), Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program

Pheasants Forever

Ducks Unlimited, Inc.

Audubon New York