Conservation Reserve Program

page12roosterToday’s Federal Farm Bill programs represent a tremendous opportunity to impact pheasant habitat on a region-wide scale. The Conservation Reserve Program is the largest of the farm bill programs, and could secure large parcels of habitat for pheasants and other wildlife. Unfortunately, early enrollments did not address species requirements, due to the varieties of grass that were seeded, primarily smooth brome and other short grasses in Colorado.

page12cp4dUnlike 1985, the 1996 Farm Bill resulted in an equal focus of soil and water conservation with wildlife habitat. In turn, the Division created a grass mix specifically tuned to produce the type of grass cover pheasants could flourish in. This mix, known as the CP-4D pheasant mix, includes a 50% switchgrass and 20% yellow indiangrass component in any soil type, while the remaining 30% of the mix is made up of a minimum of three grasses, based on soil type, and either a forb or shrub component. In 1998, we added an option to the PHIP habitat guidelines that allowed chapters to provide a one-time $5/acre incentive payment to landowners that were interested in planting the pheasant grass mix into their new or enhanced CRP. Since that time, chapters have provided incentives to landowners to plant over 34,000 acres of the CP-4D pheasant mix. Many of those acres are on the verge of blooming into tremendous cover for pheasants.

CRP planted to the CP-4D pheasant mix will positively impact the deficit in year-round survival cover, which appears to be the most significant limiting factor for pheasants in eastern Colorado. This is especially true for birds that currently do not find acceptable night-roosting habitat and are forced to roost in poor quality wheat stubble or CRP. These grass stands will also create large blocks of undisturbed nesting cover, and will also help to reduce mortality during and after strong winter storms, due to the fact that switchgrass and yellow indiangrass stand up well to blowing and drifting snow.

Acres of CP-4D Pheasant Mix CRP Planted by Chapter and Year

  1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 Totals
Phillips County 5,296 699 1,535     7,530
Yuma County 2,029 1,367 730   1,378 5,504
Frenchman Creek 890 1,133 921     2,944
Northeast Colo. 183 581 1,110   815 2,689
East Central CO 1,344 4,482       5,826
Baca County QU 65         65
Smoky River   337       337
Washington Cty.   1,911 2,772 4,908   9,591
TOTALS 9,807 10,510 7,068 4,908 2,193 34,486
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