Hunters, landowners need to work together

This weekend, Marshall will host the Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Opener. Gov. Mark Dayton’s visit will promote southwest Minnesota as an attractive place for hunters to visit.

However, pheasant hunting isn’t what it used to be for a number of reasons. The bird population is declining and so are the number of hunters still participating in the sport.

According to Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Dennis Anderson, pheasant hunters still pump an estimated $100 million yearly into the state’s rural economy. So, Gov. Dayton and the Department of Natural Resources, supported by hunting enthusiasts, have been aggressively addressing the habitat issue.

Three years ago, Dayton announced a plan to restore Minnesota’s pheasant population and the nearly century-old hunting tradition it supports. The announcement of the plan followed the first-ever Minnesota Pheasant Summit.

The Minnesota landscape once had 18 million acres of prairie, but just over 1 percent of that remains today. Most of that habitat loss is primarily attributed to farming and development. Those attending the first-ever summit hoped to find some balance between agriculture and protecting habitat for pheasants. It’s estimated that more than 800,000 Minnesotans take part in pheasant hunting annually. But on the other side, agriculture is the largest engine driving the economy in southwest Minnesota.

Hunting enthusiasts will need to continue to work with agriculture landowners now and in the future. Landowners are helping to maintain pheasant habitats in a number of ways.

As long as there is cooperation among farmers and other landowners, hunting should continue to thrive in southwest Minnesota.