The push by Pheasants Forever and other conservation groups in support of “Sodsaver” – strengthened federal protections for native grasslands – received a boost today with the introduction of a “Sodsaver” bill, the Protect our Prairies Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives by Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Tim Walz (D-MN). If enacted, the policy would help conserve native prairie habitats, most notably in the Dakotas, while saving nearly $200 million in federal spending.
Strengthened Sodsaver, or Non-cropland Conversion Provisions, are a top priority for Pheasants Forever during the current Farm Bill debate. “Sodsaver has long been a Farm Bill priority for sportsmen and thanks to the leadership of Representatives Noem and Walz, we have Sodsaver legislation in the House that mirrors that included in the Senate Farm Bill earlier this year,” said Dave Nomsen, Vice President of Government Affairs for Pheasants Forever, “Today’s introduction marks an important step forward in conserving our nation’s remaining grassland habitat, so essential to a variety of economically important wildlife. We look forward to working with Ms. Noem and Mr. Walz to make Sodsaver a reality in the next Farm Bill.”
Native prairie lands represent important nesting areas for pheasants, ducks and other grassland birds – and more than 97 percent of the native grasslands of the U.S. have already been lost. There is increasing pressure from farm advocacy groups to weaken or remove the Sodsaver provision. Pheasants Forever says that would be a mistake, irreparably damaging outdoor traditions in places like South Dakota, ground zero for Sodsaver policy.
“Sodsaver is one of Pheasants Forever’s critical priorities for inclusion in the 2012 Farm Bill. South Dakota’s grasslands are a treasured resource important to pheasants, our economy and our way of life,” explained Mike Stephenson, Pheasants Forever’s Regional Representative for South Dakota. The combination of Sodsaver, along with programs like the Conservation Reserve Program, are the keys to sustained high pheasant populations here in South Dakota.”
The Senate Farm Bill approved by the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee on April 26 included a Sodsaver provision sponsored by Senators John Thune (R-SD) , Mike Johanns (R-NE) and others, which Pheasants Forever and 30 other conservation and sportsmen’s groups also supported.
Pheasants Forever and its quail division, Quail Forever, is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Combined, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 130,000 members and 700 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent, the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure.