State gets three Farm Bill wildlife biologists
Springfield — As Illinois prepares to lose sizable chunks of CRP acreage over the next year, one conservation group is reacting by literally putting more boots on the ground to help protect and grow quail and pheasant populations.
Pheasants Forever has increased the number of Farm Bill wildlife biologists in the state from two to five, hiring the three new staffers last month through a partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and DNR.
“Illinois is second only to Iowa in expiring CRP contracts over the next year,” Aaron Kuehl, PF Illinois director of conservation partnerships, said. “The expanded Farm Bill wildlife biologist partnership will help provide the necessary wildlife expertise and conservation technical assistance to private landowners to protect and expand upland habitat.”
Joining PF are Doug Gass (McLean, Dewitt, Livingston, Woodford and Tazewell counties), Brandon Bleuer (Rock Island, Henry, Knox, Warrenand Mercer counties) and Jason Bleich (Champaign, Vermilion, Ford, Iroquois and Douglas counties).
The three join existing biologists Brady Wooten (Wayne, Jefferson, Marion, Hamilton and White counties) and Brandon Beltz (Effingham, Fayette, Cumberland, Jasper and Clay counties).
PF’s wildlife biologist program – it was started in 2003 – educates farmers and landowners about conservation programs. The biologists also assist landowners after programs such as CRP have been implemented.
The three new hires each have experience with habitat programs.
“I feel that it is equally important to recognize and improve the quality of existing habitat as well as encourage and promote the establishment of new habitat,” said Bleich, who worked for the Ford County Soil and Water Conservation District before joining PF. “Now is a vital time to educate and communicate with landowners.”