MITCHELL, S.D. — The South Dakota governor says he believes his habitat work group is making a difference despite a 45 percent drop in pheasant numbers seen in an annual survey earlier this year.

In December 2013, Gov. Dennis Daugaard hosted a Pheasant Habitat Summit due to concerns from the public over declining numbers in the species across the state, The Daily Republic reported. The summit resulted in the formation of the habitat work group.

Daugaard said the group’s recommendations have “set the stage for important long-term habitat efforts.” Many of the recommendations have been fully or partially established.

The formation of the Habitat Pays website and an increased Federal Duck Stamp are among the recommendations completed.

The stamp was hiked up from $15 to $25. The funds acquired from the stamp are allocated to conservation projects nationwide.

Daugaard said nearly 15,670 visitors have viewed at least one session on the website since its launch.

Matt Morlock, acting director for Pheasants Forever in South Dakota, recognized the strides made to elevate wildlife habitat in the state.

“The recommendations provided an elevated platform to work from, but the work is far from complete,” Morlock said. “And we — Pheasants Forever — are committed not just to working on those eight components, but all other programs and initiatives that can help establish upland habitat in South Dakota.”

The annual statewide pheasant-per-mile report released last month showed the decline from 2016 followed the state’s drought.

Daugaard said the weather will always have a significant effect on pheasant numbers.

“Because weather can impact a single year, the true measurement of the (pheasant habitat work group) will be assessed through long-term numbers knowing year-to-year volatility will occur due to conditions which cannot be controlled,” Daugaard said.

Information from: The Daily Republic,

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