Pheasants Forever (PF) and Quail Forever (QF) announce the hiring of Jake Swafford as the organizations’ initial Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist in New Mexico. Swafford is located at the NRCS Portales Field Office in Portales, New Mexico, and covers Chaves, Curry, De Baca, Eddy, Guadalupe, Lea, Quay and Roosevelt Counties. Swafford started March 26, during the third week of CRP General Sign-up 43. For the duration of the sign-up, which continues until April 6, Pheasants Forever and partners are actively working to re-enroll a fourth of New Mexico’s total CRP acres, which are set to expire by the end of this year.
“From Ring-necked Pheasants to Lesser Prairie Chickens, New Mexico is a state well-known for its upland wildlife and unique habitat,” says Steve Riley, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist Coordinator, “A Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, like Jake, is just what the state needs to further its outdoor culture, and the timing of his start coincides with the especially critical CRP General Sign-up 43. CRP acres, which will disappear if we don’t act quickly, are the main vehicle for keeping New Mexico’s wildlife in sustainable populations—especially the Lesser Prairie Chickens. To meet the goals of the partnership, Jake will be working with partners from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), New Mexico Game and Fish (NMGF) and other local conservationists.”
Pheasants Forever’s Farm Bill Wildlife Biologists work to provide technical assistance to farmers and ranchers—through one-on-one consulting—regarding the benefits of conservation programs (such as the Conservation Reserve Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program). By working with landowners to develop and implement individual wildlife management plans, these biologists represent Pheasants Forever’s on-the-ground efforts in ensuring landowners are aware of conservation program options. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever initiated the Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist Program in 2003 with 4 positions, and it has since grown to more than 100 partnership positions located throughout the country.
Swafford grew up in Columbia, Missouri, in an avid outdoor family. His favorite activities included deer hunting, hiking and spending weekends canoeing local streams with his father. Through his time outdoors, Swafford found he had a passion for wildlife. He later used this passion to earn a dual bachelor’s degree in Forestry and Fisheries & Wildlife from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
While in school, Swafford was a key member of Missouri Department of Conservation research teams that gathered data on river otter populations in the Missouri Ozarks and prairie chicken populations in the plains of northwest Missouri. In the Ozarks, he worked with local anglers and landowners to better communicate the department’s otter-management goals. Upon graduation, Swafford worked as a wildlife resource aide for the Missouri Department of Conservation, which gave him the opportunity to gain hands-on wildlife and land management experience. “It is great to now be working with landowners towards common management goals,” Swafford noted.
Farm Bill Wildlife Biologists are employees of, and supervised by PF/QF with daily instruction and leadership provided by NRCS and NMGF. Grant funding is provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to focus attention on upland wildlife—especially Lesser Prairie Chickens. Funding from NFWF includes contributions from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Additional funding support has been provided by local sources such as NRCS—New Mexico, NMGF, PF/QF, Grasslands Charitable Foundation and the Center of Excellence for Hazardous Materials Management.