COLUMBUS — Landowners in five Northwest Ohio counties are now eligible to enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program, which seeks to restore pheasant habitats across the state, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The Pheasant Safe program uses a wildlife management practice developed by conservation organizations in Ohio that establishes and restores habitats of declining game bird species. It expects to establish 28,700 acres of new habitat throughout the state, specifically targeting declining pheasant and quail populations.
Among the 23 counties designated for the program are Auglaize, Hardin, Logan and Shelby counties.
“Pheasant and quail hunters have been ambassadors for grassland conservation in Ohio for many years,” said ODNR Director James Zehringer. “Enrollment in the Ohio Pheasant SAFE program is an exciting way to honor the tradition of upland game hunting and to celebrate nearly 100 years of pheasants in Ohio.”
The SAFE program is available as a continuous signup practice under CRP on a first-come, first-served basis. Grasslands created through the program will benefit populations of ring-necked pheasants and other wildlife that depend on those habitats. Habitat improvement is particularly beneficial to pheasants and quail, which are species that have severely declined over the past few decades from habitat loss.
Pheasant SAFE allows for enrollment of whole fields. Applicant may elect a contract period between 10 to 15 years..
The CRP program is maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency. Ring-necked pheasant introductions to Ohio were considered successful by 1914.
The Ohio Pheasant SAFE was first made available in 2010 with 6,600 acres. The conservation practice was popular with Ohio landowners and those with available acres were quickly enrolled. The ODNR Division of Wildlife teamed with Pheasants Forever to request that the USDA make an additional 22,100 acres available for Ohio’s pheasants. It is hoped the Pheasant SAFE will offset some of the 154,806 acres of Ohio grassland scheduled to expire out of CRP during the next five years.
To maximize the benefits to game bird populations, Ohio Pheasant SAFE is available in the state’s core pheasant range: Auglaize, Champaign, Clark, Clinton, Darke, Defiance, Fayette, Fulton (partial), Hardin, Highland (partial), Huron, Knox, Logan, Madison, Marion (partial), Morrow, Paulding, Pickaway, Ross (partial), Seneca, Shelby, Union and Wyandot (partial) counties.
Ohio Pheasant SAFE participants will be eligible for signup and practice incentive payments, cost-share assistance for establishment and management and annual rental payments. Interested landowners with eligible cropland should sign up before all available acres are enrolled, or by Sept. 30. About 18,000 acres are still available.
Information about the Ohio Pheasant SAFE program can be obtained from an ODNR Division of Wildlife district office or the USDA Farm Services Agency.
Area counties targeted for program to establish pheasant habitat