Pheasanomics: Community-based habitat access program goes live in Brule and Lyman counties

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A number of people were on hand to commemorate the first acres enrolled in the Brule and Lyman County Pheasants Forever CBHAP. From left are PF farm bill biologist Nick Goehring, landowner Mary Lou Gilman, PF farm bill biologist Jessica Downey, GFP conservation officer Spencer Downey and NRCS soil conservationist Jason Muldoon. Courtesy photo

By Jessica Downey, PF Farm Bill Biologist —

Exciting things are happening in south-central South Dakota, where the first Brule/Lyman County community-based habitat access program (CBHAP) contract was recently signed in Lyman County by Mary Lou Gilman.

“This is just great that a program like this exists to help landowners and hunters alike,” Gilman said.

Something this big only comes around once in a lifetime within our local communities. Realizing this fact, the local Pheasants Forever chapters in Brule and Lyman counties are organizing an effort to enroll more acres of high-quality habitat in public-hunting access programs available through the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department.

CBHAP is an initiative that was started by the Aberdeen Pheasant Coalition in January 2016 when they pledged to raise $100,000 in additional sign-up incentives for landowners enrolling in three programs: USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program, GFP’s Walk-in Area program and the new CBHAP with Pheasants Forever. The partnership’s potential was quickly realized by the Aberdeen Pheasant Coalition, which has added a over 2,700 acres of public hunting ground across 19 sites in Brown County.

Following this framework, Pheasant Country, the Mitchell Pheasants Forever chapter, recently embarked on improving their public access to quality habitat and helping local businesses and landowners by announcing a $150,000 pledge toward their own CBHAP in Davison County.

The Brule and Lyman County Pheasants Forever chapters and the Chamberlain Chamber of Commerce are hoping to follow these success stories with one of their own. Currently, their goal is to raise $50,000 to further incentivize local landowners to enroll land into the program.

So far the chapters have raised enough to enroll 600 acres of prime hunting ground, but more can be done. The goal is to enroll 2,000 acres for public hunting in both Brule and Lyman counties through the CBHAP. Local farm bill biologists and chapter volunteers will soon be reaching out to businesses in the two-county region to gauge their interest in adding to the funding source.

Pheasants Forever, the national nonprofit organization, and the Brule and Lyman County chapters hope local businesses and individuals will contribute funding to the program, as well.

“Pheasant hunting is such an economic driver in our communities — there’s no question there,” said Mike Stephenson, South Dakota’s former regional representative for Pheasants Forever. “Our local towns have gained a lot from nonresidents coming into their communities. We’re hoping they give back, so these local businesses can continue to thrive.”

Recently, all the pieces came together when 156 acres of prime pheasant habitat were enrolled into the Brule/Lyman County CBHAP to kickstart the local movement. These additional acres provide more habitat for pheasants and wildlife, which in turn will bring more nonresident hunters into the area to boost the local economy.

“Not only is this community-based habitat access program great for the health of our land, it’s empowering our local community, businesses and landowners economically, all while giving more public access for hunting around us,” said GFP conservation officer Spencer Downey. “Plus, it showcases how great partnerships can come together to benefit main street.”

The Brule/Lyman County CBHAP is pretty simplistic. When new CRP acres are available and a landowner wants to enroll their property in the Walk-In Area program, they can contact a local Pheasants Forever biologist. The landowner receives payment for enrolling in CRP from the Farm Service Agency based off soil quality and county location. Then, GFP offers $1 per acre, per year, for hunter access plus $5 per acre, per year, of permanent habitat for the 10 years the land is in contract. GFP also offers a one-time payment of $25 per acre for CRP acres signed into the program.

Now, because of the funding put forth from Brule and Lyman Pheasants Forever chapters, landowners will get an incentive of $25 per acre as a one-time payment at the beginning of the contract.

For landowners interested in the program and local businesses that want to contribute back to their main street by helping us reach our goal, please contact Jessica Downey at 605-869-2216 Ext. 3 or [email protected] for Lyman County, and in Brule County reach out to Nick Goehring at 605-216-4390 or [email protected]