Pheasant Rendezvous attendees arrive at the field site. Photo by Nick Green, MUCC.

On June 1, 36 people gathered at Clinton Lakes County Park for the most all-inclusive look into grassland habitat projects, programs, professionals and statewide goals that include private landowners that is available. The Pheasant Rendezvous was opened to the public for the first time in its history and was much anticipated by registrants. The only attendance requirement was that participants must have 5 or more acres that could be managed for wildlife. This stipulation was set due to the event topics geared toward larger-scale conservation practices and grassland management.

This event was a way to further connect landowners to conservation practices that help enhance natural features for upland birds, songbirds, deer, turkey, cottontail rabbits, pollinators and more while also directly impacting water quality.
The connection between landowner and conservation professional was also highlighted. Before any conservation gets on the ground, most people need guidance about property planning and management decisions. Knowing where to find that assistance plays a large role in success and minimizes frustration.
The Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative (MPRI) is a prime example of successful partnerships that focus on connecting people to programs, contributing to projects, encouraging hunter participation and increasing wildlife populations through habitat enhancement. Pheasant Rendezvous attendees had the opportunity to hear from multiple partners that make up MPRI including the Department of Natural Resources, Pheasants Forever, Michigan Association of Conservation Districts, Farm Bill Biologists and Michigan United Conservation Clubs. Although we are from different organizations, our missions remain in sync. Extending the footprint of conservation, no matter what species or landscape we represent, will always reign superior to personal motives. What helps one, will help many. Initiatives such as MPRI help expand the impact we have by uniting some of the biggest conservation forces in Michigan.
One significant, and exciting, portion of the event was in-field. Motz Park serves as the grassland habitat hub for the Clinton Lakes Pheasant Cooperative and is a perfect example of what partnerships are capable of creating. The property had been burned just a few weeks prior to the event and showcased the importance of active management techniques. Partner staff had four stations set up across the field where they discussed different requirements for an ideal wildlife grassland stand and what the burn did for the field. This session allowed for Farm Bill Biologists to answer more specific questions one-on-one – similar to what a real site visit would be like on potential project properties.
The Clinton Lakes Pheasant Cooperative talked about their experience thus far as well. A cooperative is a group of like-minded landowners and hunters that work collaboratively to manage a species (or multiple) and its habitat. Clinton Lakes focuses on pheasants and has seen an increasing number of wild birds in their area each year. The cooperative completes an annual survey that is used to indicate population trends. Members of these groups are valuable because they represent the majority of conservationists…outdoor sportsman. Being a hunter is not a requirement to be in a cooperative, but many share that passion and want to ensure that our natural resources are protected for future generations. Hearing positive feedback from people that have invested time and money alongside the many partners that make up MPRI is motivating to other landowners.
The agenda also included the Adopt-a-Game-Area program. This program allows you to donate funds to a state game area to improve nesting habitat, brood-rearing habitat, foraging habitat, and winter habitat for a wide range of wildlife and pollinators, and be recognized for doing so. If you are interested in learning more, please follow the link and contact Ben Beaman at bbeaman@pheasantsforever.org.
Nick Green, MUCC’s Public Information Officer, gave a presentation on the new Pheasant Hunting Initiative that aims to aid in the recruitment, retention and reactivation of hunters in Michigan. If you would like to learn more about this effort, please follow the link above or grab a copy of Michigan Out-of-Doors magazine in your local store!

Overall, the Pheasant Rendevous was a huge success and we are grateful for the new relationships that were formed. It is our hope that the information provided motivated landowners to take action and contribute to grassland conservation and wildlife populations. If you attended, thank you. If you contributed to this day with your professional expertise, thank you. We are all better for spending a day furthering our knowledge of Michigan’s natural resources.

Farm Bill Biologist, John Bauer, awaits a group during the in-field portion of the Pheasant Rendezvous. Photo by Nick, Green, MUCC.

If you have any questions or would like to receive more information on the event please contact Morgan Warda, Michigan Wildlife Cooperatives Coordinator, at mwarda@mucc.org or 517-346-6454. If you are interested in speaking with a Farm Bill Biologist, local Pheasants Forever representative, or a DNR biologist I would be happy to connect you with the right person.

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