Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

February 19, 2007

No new CRPs for two years

From Pheasants Forever

Last week, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced his agency, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), would offer no new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general signups in 2007 and 2008.

Though the USDA’s 2008 fiscal budget calls for $2 billion to be spent on the CRP program, that money would go only to existing contracts.

Nationwide, CRP enrollment will drop by at least three million acres this year, to approximately 34 million acres by 2008, as a result of this announcement.

In addition, USDA officials are considering offering “early outs” from existing CRP contracts.

If “early outs” come into play, then the three million acre estimate could be a dramatically low prediction.

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever find this recent development unacceptable and in direct contrast to President Bush’s directive for a fully enrolled CRP.

This announcement is also shortsighted when considering CRP’s legacy of benefits for our soil, water, air, and wildlife resources.

It’s no secret that the CRP program has been the most successful conservation program in US history, helping increase not only pheasant populations, but populations of quail, ducks, grouse, prairie chickens, and other wildlife.

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever recognize there are a variety of forces with opposing interests at play.

However, the quality of our water and natural resources should not be up for debate.

Selling the country short on conservation of our natural resources is simply not the answer.

Now is not the time to stand pat. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever strongly encourage you to contact US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, and your US Senators and your US Representatives to voice your displeasure with the decision not to allow new CRP signups for two years, and oppose “early outs” from CRP contracts.

Respectfully describe how important CRP is to you and your community.

Go to www.pheasantsforever.org/conservation/legislation.php and you’ll be taken directly to the Pheasants Forever website, where you’ll be able to find Secretary Johann’s and your elected officials’ contact information.

Please take the time to e-mail, mail, or phone these people with your concerns.

Help Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever by being an active supporter of the CRP program.

Future generations of American hunting and outdoor enthusiasts are depending upon your action.

Please take the time to voice your support for CRP and your concerns with the recent decision to suspend general signups for two years.

Ducks Unlimited meeting in Howard Lake Feb. 26

Ducks Unlimited will have a meeting at the Howard Lake Legion Monday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m.

If interested in attending the meeting, and to RSVP contact Brad or Heidi Driver at (763) 675-7234 or at bradandheidi@hotmail.com.

Delano offering firearms safety course

A firearms safety training course is being offered at the Delano Sportsmen’s Club for kids who will to be 12 years old by Nov. 12, and adults.

The training program consists of 11 days, beginning Monday, Feb. 26 and ending Sunday, April 7.

Students must attend all classes. Class hours are 7 to 8:30 p.m., and a guardian must accompany each student.

Training days are: Feb. 26; March 1, 6, 8, 13, 15, 20, 22; April 3, 5, 7.

The course will cover hunter responsibilities, firearm handling, archery, marksmanship, wildlife identification, game management and game care, survival, water safety, and first aid.

At the completion of the course, students will earn a firearms safety certificate.

The certificate will soon be mandatory for all hunters born in 1982 or after.

The sign-up deadline is Thursday, Feb. 22. For additional information, contact John McClay at (763) 675-2397 after 6 p.m.

Ducks Unlimited waterfowl hunters party

Ducks Unlimited will be having a waterfowl hunters party Saturday, March 3 at the Bonfire Bar and Grille, located on Hwy 22 between Hutchinson and Litchfield.

Doors open at 3 p.m., with a raffle to follow.

Raffle prizes include 100 dozen Avery decoys, Avery merchandise, and Ducks Unlimited merchandise.

The cost is $25 with pre-event sale only – no tickets at the door.

For additional information, or to purchase tickets, call (320) 234-6224, or go online to register at www.duckssevents.org.

Watertown Rod & Gun firearms safety training

The Watertown Rod and Gun Club will be having a firearms safety training class this spring.

The class will be Tuesday and Thursday nights, with registration Tuesday, March 6 at 6 p.m.

Classes begin March 6, and will run through Saturday, March 31, which will be a field day.

The cost is $10, and a parent or guardian must sign for students under 18 years of age.

Classes will be at the Watertown Rod and Gun Club, located .5 miles south of Watertown on State Hwy 25, then west on County Rd. 122 one mile – club on north side.

Classes will begin at 6:30 p.m. and students must attend every class, with class running to 9 p.m.

No firearms or ammunition may be brought to class.

For additional information, contact Tom Radde at (952) 446-1471.

Mowing ditches and right of ways along waterfowl production areas is illegal
From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

With spring not far around the corner, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would like to remind everyone of the rules and regulations pertaining to the mowing and haying of ditches/ right-of-ways within the boundaries of federal Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA).

WPAs, which are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, are public lands purchased by the Federal government for the purpose of increasing the production of migratory birds, especially waterfowl.

It is common for waterfowl and other ground nesting birds to use the grasses in ditches/ right-of-ways for nesting.

The following is a list of some of the federal and state regulations that prohibit the mowing and haying of these ditches:

• Federal Regulations
· 50 CFR 27.21 – No person shall take any animal or plant on any national wildlife refuge (WPA).
· 50 CFR 27.51(a) – Disturbing, injuring,…. destroying, collecting (haying), or attempting to disturb, injure,…. destroy or collect any plant or animal on any national wildlife refuge (WPA) is prohibited except by special permit.

• State Regulations
· 160.2715(a) – Except for the actions of the road authority, ….. it is unlawful to: (2)….perform any other detrimental operation within the road right-of-way (covers haying) except in the preparation of the land for planting vegetative cover or as authorized under section 160.232
· 160.232(a) – To provide enhanced roadside habitat for nesting birds and other small wildlife, road authorities may not mow or till the right-of-way of a highway located outside of a home rule charter or statutory city except as allowed in this section.
· 160.232(c) – An entire right-of-way may be mowed (not hayed) after July 31. From August 31st to the following July 31st, the entire right-of-way may only be mowed if necessary for safety reasons, but may not be mowed to a height of less than 12 inches.
· 160.232(f) – When feasible, road authorities are encouraged to utilize low maintenance, native vegetation that reduces the need to mow, provides wildlife habitat, and maintains public safety.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service will be posting these critical WPA road ditches to remind and help people to protect these needed resource areas.

Your cooperation is truly appreciated.

Please contact the Litchfield Wetland Management District at (320) 693-2849 with your questions, comments, and concerns.

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