Recent Op-Eds

I have found that when you ask a non-South Dakotan what they associate our state with, most of the time they respond, "Mount Rushmore." This makes sense. We are the Mount Rushmore State; it's written on our flag. For many who call our state home, however, another notable icon is the Chinese ring-necked pheasant.

Pheasant hunting is a pastime that has been passed from generation to generation in our state. My brothers and I joined our dad every fall, and I have passed the tradition on to my daughters. It is this historical continuity that makes pheasant hunting such a venerable tradition in South Dakota.

This tradition is why I want to spotlight the South Dakota Office of Tourism's "South Dakota Pheasantennial" celebration, which commemorates the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the ringneck to our prairies. In conjunction with this event, the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre is presenting an exhibit entitled, "Sportsman's Paradise: Hunting and Fishing in South Dakota," which chronicles the history of hunting and fishing in our state and spotlights the importance of conservation to protecting our wildlife resources. I encourage hunters and others to visit this exhibit to gain a deeper understanding of this proud aspect of our state's history.

Good conservation practices are a critical part of what makes South Dakota the finest pheasant country in the world. The 2008 Farm Bill reauthorized the successful Conservation Reserve Program, which has been critical to preserving pheasant habitat. As part of the 2008 Farm Bill, I fought to include the Open Fields Act, which will provide greater incentives for producers to participate in South Dakota's successful walk-in hunting program.

Similarly, the bill included important provisions I advocated to continue and strengthen the Wetlands Reserve Program and the Grasslands Reserve Program. I am very proud of what the Farm Bill achieves for South Dakota conservation initiatives, and I will continue to advocate for strong conservation measures.

Fall and pheasants are linked in the minds of many South Dakotans, myself included. Hunting is not only important for our state's economy, it is a part of our culture and our identity. South Dakotans and others revere the pheasant population, and I am confident that this season will not disappoint.