|08-14-03: Pheasants Forever chapter looks for local
areas to create habitat
|By SHELLEY GRIESHOP
Providing an overall better environment for wildlife is the goal of the
newly formed Mercer County chapter of Pheasants Forever.
"Better habitat for all wildlife means better overall
hunting," said Gary Steinbrunner, a member of the local chapter.
The Mercer County chapter was formed after several members from the
former Auglaize-Mercer County organization of the same name decided to start their own
chapter. There are currently about 100 Pheasant Forever members in both counties.
Pheasants Forever is a national conservation organization founded in
1982 to combat the continuing decline of the ring-necked pheasant population.
But pheasants are only a small part of what the local chapter is all
about. The colorful fowl aren't well populated locally because their initial survival rate
into the wild is quite low.
Steinbrunner of Fort Recovery currently is raising about 320
ring-necked pheasants to release for upcoming youth hunting events. In May, he received
his first flock of 1-day-old birds.
"They looked like a walnut with wings," he said laughing.
"I'm learning they're very territorial and if they get too hot or crowded, they peck
Steinbrunner, a longtime hunter like most members, said the birds are
low maintenance and require minimal contact for better survival rates in the wild. A
self-employed woodworker, he looks upon the pheasants as an experimental project. His real
passion is reflected in his own property where acres of sunflowers and prairie grass
expose his own wildlife habitat.
Preserving and enhancing the environment for all types of wildlife is
important to Steinbrunner and the other members of the local Pheasants Forever group.
One hundred percent of all money raised locally through the non-profit
organization stays in the county for habitat projects, Steinbrunner said.
"That's one of the reasons we've stayed within the organization.
All the money goes to work here," said Bill Knapke, Mercer County chapter president.
One of the local projects is located on Karafit Road in Franklin
Township, near Montezuma. Last year, approximately 33 acres was set aside with funds from
the Clean Ohio Act and the local and national Pheasants Forever organization to preserve
The chapter also helped local 4-H camp members this summer build 40
bluebird houses to enhance a 15-acre burrow area owned by Celina's sanitary department on
Knapke said filter strips - buffer zones of tall grasses and trees
located between fields, creeks and woods - are the best way for property owners to
individually preserve land as wildlife shelters year-round.
Pheasants Forever, in cooperation with state park officials, also
created a wildlife habitat with various wildflowers along West Bank Road in Celina.
The local Pheasants Forever chapter and the United States Department of
Agriculture (USDA) offer the following programs to interested property owners:
- Filter strips - Landowners receive a one-time payment of $50 per acre
if they plant (and promise not to mow) warm season/native prairie grasses to a minimum
width of 100 feet or five continuous acres.
- Food plots - The organization provides free sunflower, corn and
sorghum seed to landowners to promote wildlife food sources.
- Wetlands - Pheasants Forever helps with cost-share funds to establish
these critically needed habitats. Funding is decided on a case-to-case basis.
Farmers are sometimes hesitant to "lock up" their land for
conservation practices, Steinbrunner said. Filter strip contracts are typically for 10-15
years and some landowners prefer to rent out their land for comparable income. Also, some
property owners don't like the look of the tall warm- and cold-season grasses and would
prefer a more "manicured look," he said.
Steinbrunner said he likes the idea that so many organizations like
Pheasants Forever, Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed, Wabash Watershed, local farm service
agencies, soil and water conservancy districts and the Division of Wildlife come together
to brainstorm for ideas on preserving local wildlife.
"This brings a lot of good people to the table," he said.
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