I still must disagree with you. When we started the trap and transfer program, the area we released the birds in had as much acres in CREP as it had in the set aside years of the 60s. The main reason it did not do as well as hoped is because the grass mixture used on the CREP acres did not provide the necessary winter cover. PA had 260,000 acres of CREP and a couple of places there was a good amount of it. Ag programs come and go under different administrations.Can't be replicated in Pennsylvania, on any large scale. Sorry I was not clear
The land use changes of the state has changed dramatically in the last hundred years. We went from a state that had close to 18 million plus acres of farmland and approximately 30 percent forest cover in the early part of the century to a state that is now 60 percent forest with 7 million plus acres of farmland. The amazing thing is, that amount of farmland and forest cover has not changed that much since the late 70s if that tells you anything. Two things have happened slowly over the last century that people don’t recognize. As farmland use declined due to various reasons, from the turn of the century up until the 70s, the land went through continual early succession stages which was perfect for pheasant cover. Some reverted back to forest cover, hence why you might see old locust posts in the middle of a mature forest. It is the early succession habitat that was produced from this massive land use conversion that created millions of acres of pheasant habitat. Once this habitat matured, peaking out in the late 70s, the pheasants started disappearing. What farmland is left, is now intensely farmed with modern day farming practices.Woods "spot on" noted many trends that have helped to grease the skids for the decline of wild pheasants in PA. There are even more-changing land patterns and development cause "fragmentation" of habitat which is not compatible with healthy pheasant (and many other)wildlife populations.
Some of the responses display observational bias. Often people can't "see it 'cause you are in it". Even if specific large pieces of habitat appear unchanged, the area "as a whole" has-thus playing a part in one of the biggest crashes in wildlife conservation history. I think Scott Klinger had some nice 8x10 glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph at the end (apologies to Arlo Guthrie) that showed the changes in land use from the heyday of the ringneck to today. From "inside" that snapshot things don't look any different. From the "outside" you can see the changes.
Lynne: In the game lands that I hunt, I have noticed that a lot of the fields that used to be planted to corn have been planted to switchgrass in recent years. I assume this is part of a plan to increase grassland in hopes that it may provide habitat for pheasant. Is that an accurate assumption?While it is true that things in PA have changed, the other states where pheasants are common are farmed the same way. The difference is the amount of CRP in those states. PA could have thousands of wild pheasants if more acres were set aside with right type habitat. We proved it. We flushed 160 wild pheasants from a 40 acre primarily switchgrass field. As the acres of CREP have gone back into production the population falls at the same rate. The problem: all farming conservation programs are voluntary. Sensitive streamside land and highly erodible land should be required to be planted in the correct warm season grass mix. Results: cleaner water, cleaner air and more small game species. In my business and hobbies I am told what I must do to comply with regulations and I don't get paid it costs me. Farmers get a pass and the result is a wildlife wasteland. Most farmers now rent thousands of acres and farm right up to the edge. I realize they are working for a profit but conservation regs should be mandatory like they are for everyone else. Will we ever see it? Not likely.