Gone Hunting 3-22-10 | TheFencePost.com

Gone Hunting 3-22-10

Jim Vanek
Greeley, Colo.

Conservation means many things and comes in many forms. The root of the word obviously comes from “conserve.”

On the local level, the West Greeley Conservation District has recognized Art and Gina Guttersen of the Guttersen Ranch of Kersey, Colo., as the Outstanding Ranchers of the Year.

Pawnee Buttes Seed Inc., was also recognized as the Conservationist of the Year. These awards were given at the district’s annual meeting last month.

On the national level, the Department of the Interior will expand its efforts with state, local and tribal partners to map lands that are vital to the survival of the greater sage grouse.

The sage grouse, or sage hen, is a ground-dwelling bird that inhabits much of the West. It is the largest member of the grouse family and can tip the scales at almost 6 pounds – twice the size of a pheasant.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department recently announced that the greater sage grouse will be “warranted, but precluded for listing” as an endangered species.

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When a species is “warranted but precluded,” it means the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works on listings for other species that are at greater risk. The service will annually review the greater sage grouse finding until a listing proposal is published or a “not warranted” finding is made.

On a more regional note, Colorado Pheasants Forever is in the process of completing a partnership with the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Natural Resource Conservation Service. There’s that “conservation” word again.

This partnership will finance the services of three farm bill biologists right here in Colorado. These new biologists will be working out of the NRCS offices in Holyoke, Burlington and Lamar.

These farm bill biologists will be responsible for improving habitat for pheasants and other wildlife.

According to Bob Hix, regional representative for Pheasants Forever for Colorado and Wyoming, this came about with the financial support of all 18 Pheasants Forever chapters in Colorado.

Last year, Colorado Pheasants Forever passed the $10 million mark on money spent on habitat for pheasants and other wildlife. These funds came from money raised directly at fundraising events throughout the state.

Hix has said he is concerned about one new proposal from the Farm Service Agency for the 2010 Conservation Priority Areas for Colorado.

As Conservation Reserve Program acres expire in northeast Colorado, the farmers may not rank as high as farmers in southeast Colorado. New CRP acres would end up in the southeast part of Colorado.

Obviously, the southeastern counties are important too, but Hix says he simply wants a level playing field when it comes to allocation of new acres.

The new farm bill limits the number of conservation acres to 32 million. This is down from a high of 38 million acres. Six million acres is a lot of nesting habitat.

I’ve seen many of my favorite hunting spots go back to the plow in the past 12 months. Farmers are paid to leave conservation acres in natural grasses for up to 10 years.

One last note on the Conservation Reserve Program: The U.S. Department of Agriculture says this summer it will hold the first general sign-up for conservation acres since 2006. The USDA hopes to keep CRP acreage at the 32 million acre cap and give taxpayers more environmental bang for their buck.

Since the Conservation Reserve Program began in 1985, I have experienced “the good old days” of pheasant hunting. For the past 25 years conservation acreage has worn out several pairs of my Irish Setter boots.

Finally, I would like to invite all of you to become part of this grass roots conservation movement.

On March 27, you can join us for dinner at the Cache La Poudre Pheasants Forever fundraiser banquet.

There will be several people at this fundraiser banquet that can fill you in on any of these conservation programs.

The banquet will be held, once again, at the Island Grove Regional Park, 415 N. 15th Ave., in Greeley, Colo., with hunting lies, a silent auction and happy hour beginning at 5 p.m.

If you have any questions, feel free to call Cache La Poudre President Brett Datteri at (970) 371-9817 or myself at (970) 339-5436.

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Jim Vanek is a longtime bird hunter who lives in Greeley with his family.