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Archive for Sunday, December 15, 2002

Drought plays hob with WIHA

December 15, 2002

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— Wildlife and Parks received a number of questions about the quality of habitat in the agency's Walk-In Hunter Area program that leases land from private landowners to allow hunting access.

About 910,000 acres of WIHA are available for public hunting, but some areas have not been as productive as in the past, partly due to low bird numbers and partly due to poor weather conditions.

A large percentage of WIHA land is also in the federal Conservation Reserve Program that subsidizes farmers to plant land to native grasses that make good pheasant habitat.

However, severe drought prompted release of CRP grasslands for emergency haying or grazing, including some WIHA tracts. By early fall, cover conditions on other WIHA property in drought-stricken regions of the state were already reduced.

"Many of our cooperators simply had to graze or hay their CRP this year just to keep their heads above water," WIHA program coordinator Mike Mitchener said.

Another concern is that some WIHA land is planted to green wheat. Obviously, this is not good upland bird habitat, but it can attract other wildlife.

"We have many tracts that may include green wheat - but are not exclusively green wheat - because it is easier to square up a tract," Mitchener said.

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