We have all heard the phrase “the ring-necked pheasant is a bird on the edge” –  maybe only second to the Hungarian partridge.  And, it is true, call it what you want – edge, habitat, riparian areas, buffers. Fact is, the more you have, the more upland game birds you have. Where you have lots of “edge” adjacent to food – you have even more upland birds. We are blessed here on the northern range of ring necks to have a plethora of small grains that form the bulk of the food source for our introduced upland species. Small grains such as wheat, barley, peas, lentils and canola all play a role in the lifecycle of upland birds. They are also commodities that are in demand and very valuable in the marketplace. To this end, producers are attempting to maximize the productivity of their land. Who can blame them – it is just good business and it is their land, we have to respect that.

New technologies have lead to what some are calling precision farming, which left unchecked can be detrimental to biodiversity. It is critical that we conserve what grassland habitat and “edge” we have now. Much of the edge in southern Alberta is linear – ditches and right-of-ways, which provide society with a great deal of benefit. Not indifferent than wetlands – ditches filter water, sequester carbon, enhance biodiversity, provide pollinator habitat, minimize flooding, help drought-proof the prairies and provide habitat for upland game birds.

If we can quantify the known natural benefits that ditches and right-of-ways provide, they will be given value. Ditches and right-of-ways are susceptible to being broken and farmed at what seems like an elevated rate. It is not uncommon to see ditches being farmed to within inches of the road grade. As well, corporate farming has led to larger fields and many right-of-ways that at one time had a strip of grass on each side of the trail have disappeared.

If you have any interest or know someone that may be interested in supporting Pheasants Forever on this front, please let us know.  Similarly, if you know anyone of influence on this matter at the municipal or provincial level, bureaucrat or politician – let us know.  Any insights that you wish to share – we would love to hear from you.

Reprinted with permission from the Alberta Farm Express