From the Desk of the VP

We have all heard that “Habitat is the key to wildlife!” but what does that mean? For some animals it means pristine eastern Washington shrub-steppe, for others the weedy edges of a farmed field. Pheasants and quail are species that are not native to Washington, and so they depend upon landscapes that have been modified from what was originally here. The Columbia Basin Irrigation project, started in 1948, was a great boon to pheasants. They thrived for a time on the newly broken farm ground. But as farming practices became more efficient, pheasant numbers began to decline. Gone was the waste grain spilled by the harvester. Gone were the field margins that provided nesting, to be replaced by alfalfa fields and their deadly swathers. Within my career with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, I witnessed another thing, in fact I was a party to it in some ways, and that is the shift from providing habitat for game birds, to focusing on native habitats. While native habitats are critically important, they do not produce as many pheasants and quail as the “bad farming” and neglected roadsides that we saw a lifetime ago. We can’t turn back the tide to the earlier days, but if we are to increase pheasant numbers we must remember what worked then, and look for sites to make it happen again.
Fred Dobler, September 2022.

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