Students from the Fillmore Central school district recently completed a Pollinator Prairie Project in Preston. Working with the local Winona/Root River Pheasants Forever chapter, students in third grade and the high school horticulture class seeded a one-acre prairie.
The objective of the project was to teach students the importance of native prairie and pollinators to our food supply. Students learned through hands-on demonstrations that pollinators like bees, butterflies, and birds are responsible for pollinating nearly a third of the food we eat. Public awareness and education are important elements of the Pheasants Forever mission. This project continues that work by providing beneficial habitat for pollinators and continued educational opportunities for students.
A special thanks to our project partners: Preston Equipment, Shooting Star Native Seeds, Prairie Moon Nursery, Corporate Casuals, and Preston Dairy and Farm.
The Winona/Root River chapter will be partnering with the La Crescent-Hokah School Distirct and the City of La Crescent to complete a second pollinator habitat project in the cities Vetsch park during the spring of 2016.
As corn prices have increased and global demand for meat has skyrocketed, farmers have been withdrawing land from the Conservation Reserve Program. This reduction in CRP has slashed habitat for most of Minnesota's ground nesting birds. Why is this such a big deal? These birds are vital to Minnesota history and help control insect populations. In addition these prairies help sequester storm runoff and control erosion. As thousands of Minnesota residents, farmers, and landowners struggle with flooding the need for better long term management of our landscape is more clear then ever before. The majority of this flooding is exacerbated by the lack of wetlands and prairies which can hold vast amounts of rainwater preventing much of the devastating flooding Minnesota is seeing today. What can be done? As a landowner or resident we all have the power to reverse these trends. Plant native prairie plants in your yard, install a rain garden, encourage your neighbor to adopt native prairie landscapes, buy local food from farmers who use sustainable practices to protect wetlands and prairies. As a consumer and citizen you have the power to make a real difference. As Margret Mead said never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
The Institution of Mechanical recently published a study on the amount of food wasted worldwide. They estimated (along with the USDA report) that 30-50% or 1.2 billion tons of food produced each year is lost before ever being consumed. How does this impact wildlife? It has a direct impact in overproduction of lands to produce food. The common message by the agriculture industry is that they are "feeding the world". While it's true that they are feeding the world the report shows that they amount of food farmers produce is excessive. If we work to improve food transportation efficiency, food storage, and reduce food waste we can reduce farmings impact on the landscape. Many areas that are being intensely farmed today can be returned to native prairie or restored wetlands. Please read the report, reduce the amount of food you waste, and help improve wildlife habitat.
Global Food Report
A drive through local Farm Country this winter is a revelatory experience. Revelatory in that the impacts of planting the landscape to monocultures of corn and soybeans and plowing the ground black as soon after harvest as possible are there for all to see. The revealer? All that "snirt" one sees in road ditches across the region. January snowdrifts stained with eroded soil reveal June sins committed against the land.
"Snirt"—a mash-up of the words "snow" and "dirt"—is leaving a grayish stain on the edges of farm fields across the Midwest. Its presence is a tell-tale sign that a field's soil had no ground cover going into the winter, not even a little corn stubble. It's also a sign that the soil is so biologically degraded that it cannot resist being blown about by even relatively minor wind events.
No-till practices by farmers can significantly reduce the amount of soil loss during the winter. Pheasants Forever is a strong promoter of no-till practices because the provide winter food for upland wildlife. They also can significantly reduce topsoil erosion and protect the biological diversity of soils.
For the third consecutive year, Pheasants Forever spent more than $50 million on its wildlife habitat conservation and education mission. In 2013, $53.8 million mission dollars helped accomplish 13,281 wildlife habitat projects spanning 1.46 million acres – the highest annual acreage total in Pheasants Forever’s 31-year history. The year’s total pushes Pheasants Forever over the 10 million acre mark since the organization’s 1982 inception.
Long a hallmark of efficiency, Pheasants Forever, including its quail conservation division, Quail Forever, spends 91.6 cents of every dollar (up from 91.23 in 2012) it raises directly on mission work, with the remainder utilized for fundraising and administrative functions. In fact, Pheasants Forever continues to be recognized as a 4-star charity by Charity Navigator, the largest charity evaluator in the country.
However, Pheasants Forever recognizes that while the organization may be healthy, upland habitat across the country is disappearing at pace never before experienced. “Announcing these Annual Report numbers is bittersweet,” explains Howard Vincent, Pheasants Forever’s President and CEO. “I am extremely proud of our organization’s team, volunteers, and these milestones. We announce these Annual Report statistics as a way of demonstrating our organization’s credibility. What we need is more: members, landowner partners, corporate partners, donors, we need more people to join us as we compete with the pace of habitat loss.”
This press release demonstrates the great work that Pheasants Forever continues to perform on behalf of wildlife and conservation. Help us continue this great work by becoming a member, donating to you local chapter, or volunteering with habitat projects. Your dollars will be well spent!
As the landscape continues to change for upland wildlife with increases in intensive agriculture hunters often ask what can I do? The agriculture system is a complex one, but the majority of the corn and soybeans which makeup the agricultural system are used in producing only a few food sources. They are mainly used as animal feed to produce beef, chicken, pork, turkey, and other meats. They are also used to produce ingredients such as High Fructose Corn Syrup and MSG. What does that all mean for Pheasants and upland wildlife? It means the more we eat meat like beef, chicken, pork, lamb, and turkey the more land is needed for corn and soybean production to feed theses animals. Not only is more crop production needed for animal feed more is needed to produce ingredients such as High Fructose Corn Syrup and MSG, which are tied directly to increased risks for Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, and Heart Attack. By eating at least one vegetarian meal or meatless meal per week you reduce the demand for animal meet and thus the need to keep many acres planted to monoculture crops like corn and soybeans. These crops provide very little habitat for upland wildlife, animals and pollinators. So if you really want to help wildlife eat a meatless meal every week!
This great video explains the benefits of no-till to farmers. By reducing agricultural tillage they reduce chemical and nutrient runoff, enhance the microbial value of the soil, save money, save time, and produce higher yields. For citizens and wildlife the benefits include, reduced erosion, reduced sediment in waterways, lessening the impact on the Dead Zone in the gulf, cleaner air from less tillage, and more residual food for all wildlife. This is a great all around win!
Iowa State University ecologist Lisa Schulte Moore and the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge have collaborated on ground breaking research related to Prairie ecosystems and farming. The research ha planted strips of Native Prairie within fields of common commodity crops like corn and soybeans. These strips of Native Prairie are 10% of the total acreage of each trial plot. The researchers then tested the amount of nitrogen runoff, phosphorus runoff and sediment loss. The results were amazing with the plots contain the 10% Native Prairie the nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment loss was reduced by 90%. These three issues are some of the biggest problems for farmers and this research shows that by planting small strips of Native Prairie within the farm landscape farmers can not only conserve soil, save money in application of chemicals, and provide important wildlife habitat. This research has the potential to change the farm landscape from one that plows fence-line to fence-line to one that promotes conservation as an economically viable option!
Please read more about the project and the research by clicking the links below...
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently published a study on nitrogen in surface waters. The study was a collaborative effort led by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, with assistance from the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Geological Survey. The report team used more than 50,000 water samples collected at 700 stream sites and used 35 years of monitoring data and findings from 300 published studies.
The most disturbing finding from this study is that 70% of nitrogen in Minnesota waterways is from cropland. Why is this important? Nitrogen in the Mississippi is creating a giant dead zone at the confluence of the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. Nitrogen can also contaminate drinking water and damage human health. Finally high loads of nitrogen are toxic to fish and other aquatic life in our lakes and rivers.
What does the MPCA suggest to mitigate these risks? They suggest restoring wetlands, diversification of plant species and planting perennial's (i.e. Native Grasses) on marginal lands. Sounds eerily similar to the platform and mission of Pheasants Forever. These strong mitigation's all originate with strong, broad farm conservation programs. At a time when levels of pollutants are so high why are we calling for extensions of crop insurance and subsidies to farmers? What we need are stronger conservation measures to insure clean water for human health and all aquatic species.