Report-card time can be an anxious time.
But for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources‘ Pheasant Summit Action Plan, the real test still lies ahead.
The Minnesota DNR’s much-anticipated pheasant plan report card came out late Wednesday afternoon, capping a flurry of recent news on management and conservation efforts on the bird front across the Northland.
On Wednesday, the DNR graded itself in 10 areas in the report card. But instead of a typical grade scale (A, B, C, D, F), items in the plan were graded for “action” and “outcome” based on the status as well as the direction each of the items is trending.
For status, there were three grades — “We are making progress and meeting targets” or “It is too early to assess/there is a high amount of variability” or “Progress is slower than anticipated/we are not meeting the targets.” Trends also had three “grades,” with arrows depicting “Improving trends” or “No change” or “Declining trends.”
Overall, the grades were mixed, but there were more green circles (making progress, meeting targets) than red triangles (slower progress, not meetings goals) and more upward arrows (improving trends) than downward arrows (declining trends). Mostly, it was a lot of in-between on both fronts. (For the report card, go to http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/fish_wildlife/habitat/prairie/pheasantaction/pheasant_action_rcard.pdf#view=fit.)
The 10 actions included in the report card:
- Target habitat efforts
- More habitat on private land
- Education and marketing
- More habitat management
- More public lands
- Buffer strips
- Better roadside habitat
- Maintain walk-in access
- Expand citizen education
- More habitat research
The 2016 legislative session will go a long way toward ultimately deciding “whether we make meaningful progress or head on a downward trend,” Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner, said in a release Wednesday. Legislators currently have several pheasant-action-plan items on their agenda for consideration, according to the release.
Also in recent days, the Minnesota DNR announced that, along with Quail Forever, it will host a meeting to discuss bobwhite quail. Landowners and anyone interested in bobwhite quail can discuss how to create habitat for these rare native Minnesota game birds at 6 p.m. Monday, March 21, at the Good Times Restaurant, 118 Bissen St. in Caledonia.
Well into the 1930s, quail thrived in southeastern Minnesota, an area included in the northern fringe of the bird’s historical range. Loss of grasslands, fewer miles of brushy fence rows and the loss of native plants have contributed to the decline of quail in Minnesota, according to the DNR.
In Wisconsin, a tiny songbird that also has dealt with significant decline, is the recipient of a donation from the Natural Foundation of Wisconsin to the state DNR. The $9,000 donation toward the Kirtland’s warbler, a songbird on the federal endangered list that nests only in Wisconsin and a few other places, will help DNR staff and partners continue recovery efforts after a banner year in 2015.
Wisconsin is important to the recovery of the bird — until 1995, the bird was found almost exclusively in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan and was struggling to recover from a steep decline in population in the 1960s.
Also, a $4,200 donation to the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative will continue efforts to work with private and public landowners to manage their lands and benefit migratory birds that stop in Wisconsin to rest and refuel.
And in recent bird news out of North Dakota, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a new recovery plan for the piping plover, a sparrow-sized migratory shorebird known for its melodic mating call.
The “Draft Revised Recovery Plan” is specific to the Northern Great Plains piping plover population, currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The Northern Great Plains population breeds along shorelines and islands of rivers and reservoirs in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska in the U.S., as well as on alkaline lakes along the Missouri Plateau, which extends into Canada. There also are small numbers breeding in Colorado and Minnesota and occasionally in Iowa and Kansas, according to the USFWS.
Habitat loss and degradation, primarily due to damming and water withdrawals, are the primary threats to the population on its breeding range, and the loss of suitable habitat due to development, human disturbance, predation and sea-level rise are the primary threats to the population on its wintering grounds, the USFWS added.
The plan is available online at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/species/recovery-plans.html. The public also may obtain copies by contacting Kirsten Brennan at 701-848-2722 (Ext. 24). Comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent by mail to Brennan at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 8315 Highway 8, Kenmare, N.D. 58746.
The comment period ends May 14.