As part of the Berggren Pheasant Plan, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is providing incentives to landowners enrolling in USDA’s Continuous-CRP. The Berggren Pheasant plan seeks to enhance pheasant habitat within prioritized areas of the state, including the Rainwater Basin area, and to increase recreational opportunities for hunting. This effort will benefit pheasants by providing additional habitat in proximity to existing wetland-grassland habitat areas. Landowners within 2 miles of existing Wildlife Management Areas, Waterfowl Production Areas, and USDA Wetlands Reserve Easements are eligible to apply and will be contacted through a direct mailing in January. Signing incentives and separate establishment incentives, in addition to CRP allowances, will be offered to landowners who enroll and allow a five-year access contract. A separate access contract will provide additional access incentives on a per-acre basis.
Landowners who are farming USDA-designated “Farmed Wetlands” or “Prior Converted” areas of hydric soils are already eligible for Continuous-CRP using Conservation Practice 23A. These areas often require greater input costs per acre to farm and yield less due to their hydric soils and flooding risk. Up to four acres of upland to each “wetland” acre with the hydric soils noted above can be enrolled, making dryland pivot corners and wet spots well suited for this Continuous-CRP practice.
Rainwater Basin wetlands within a grassland habitat are not only good for migratory birds and water quality, but can also be excellent pheasant habitat. Areas with adequate grassland cover, wetland habitat providing both food and seasonal cover, and a lack of trees are a good recipe for pheasant use. Hunter survey data indicate that the Rainwater Basin area is an important destination not only for waterfowl hunters, but also for pheasant hunters in eastern Nebraska. Hunters have recognized the value and quality of Rainwater Basin wetlands as pheasant habitat.
The Berggren Pheasant Plan currently has funding for the above noted incentives and other habitat improvement options within the Plan’s prioritized areas (note map). Practices vary, but are developed with the landowner to be compatible with the individual landowner’s farming and ranching operations.