Senator John ThuneFall in South Dakota is notable for many reasons, not the least of which is the dropping temperature and the first dustings of snow in the Black Hills. Of course, fall in South Dakota also means the start of pheasant hunting season, one of our state's favorite pastimes and a significant contributor to the economy. The hunting tradition is strong in our state, and I join many South Dakotans in eagerly anticipating Opening Day every year.
Last year, South Dakota celebrated the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the Chinese ringneck pheasant to our prairies. Since then, subsequent generations of hunters have walked fields and participated in a tradition that my father handed down to me and my brothers and I have handed down to my daughters. It is a tradition that I hope will be handed down long after I am gone.
Responsible conservation practices are vital if the hunting tradition is to be handed down to coming generations. The 2008 Farm Bill, which I helped write as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, reauthorized the successful Conservation Reserve Program, which has worked with agricultural producers to preserve pheasant habitats in South Dakota. It also included the Open Fields program, which provides incentives for producers to participate in South Dakota's successful walk-in hunting program.
The Farm Bill also included provisions I supported to continue and strengthen the Wetlands Reserve Program and the Grasslands Reserve Program. These important conservation initiatives all support healthy pheasant populations in our state. South Dakota's conservation efforts and the cooperation between landowners, state, and federal policymakers are a justifiable source of pride for our state.
South Dakota hunters and visitors to our state help support local businesses in addition to supporting conservation efforts. Hunting also provides revenue that the state of South Dakota transforms in to important services. Hunting is beneficial for our economy, our culture, and when done responsibly, our environment. It truly is a tradition that we can all be proud of. As the pheasant hunting season starts, I hope that all South Dakota hunters are safe and successful, and I hope to see many of you out there this season.