Pennsylvania's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program Benefits Ring-Necked Pheasants but Not Enough to Reverse Declines
In 2000, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) was started in Pennsylvania as an incentive program for farm owners to restore grassland and riparian areas to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. The grassland restoration part of the program is thought to produce high quality habitat for rapidly declining populations of ring-necked pheasants. We used data collected via roadside counts from 2001–2002 and 2009–2010 in a 20-county area in south-central Pennsylvania to determine whether CREP field establishment during that time period affected pheasant populations. Pheasant abundances responded positively to the amount of CREP cover; the change in abundance between the two time-periods increased by 3.2% with every unit increase in the percent CREP coverage within 500 m. Changes in relative abundance increased by an additional 21.9% with every unit increase in the percent CREP coverage within 5,000 m of survey routes, indicating additional benefits of CREP when located in the surrounding landscape. Although pheasant abundances responded positively to CREP, they declined across the area by 52% from the 2001–2002 to 2009–2010 time periods, indicating the overall amount of CREP land was inadequate to reverse the population decline. Because only 6.0% of survey stops currently have conditions necessary to support steady or increasing pheasant populations, the amount of additional CREP coverage needed to reverse population declines in the study area is impractical and will need to be used in combination with other management techniques to be successful.
Pabian, Sarah E., Andrew M. Wilson, Scott R. Klinger, and Margaret C. Brittingham. "Pennsylvania's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program benefits ring-necked pheasants but not enough to reverse declines." The Journal of Wildlife Management 79, 4 (May 2015). 641–646.