Department of Natural Resources
What is the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative (MPRI)?
The MPRI is a conservation initiative to restore and enhance Michigan pheasant habitat, populations and hunting opportunity on private and public lands. It will accomplish this through public-private cooperatives of 10,000 acres or more that improve habitat for pheasants and other wildlife on a landscape level. The MPRI works by acquiring state and federal resources to assist landowners in the cooperatives to improve wildlife habitat on their property and by improving habitat on selected state game areas, recreation areas, or other public lands.
How did the MPRI get started?
Local, state and national conservation organizations with local, state and federal agencies agreed that focusing habitat development on public and private land for pheasants, other game birds and small game would increase hunting opportunity and assist in hunter recruitment and retention.
Is the MPRI a statewide initiative?
The MPRI is currently focused on three priority areas that have the highest potential for providing exceptional pheasant habitat. Those areas are Gratiot, Saginaw and Clinton counties; Huron, Tuscola and Sanilac counties; and Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties. It is likely to expand to other portions of the traditional pheasant range as noted on the Priority Pheasant Restoration Areas map.
How can I get involved?
You can work with your neighbors to form a pheasant cooperative. You can also work with partners such as Pheasants Forever and county conservation districts to assist in the development and management of habitat on select state game and recreation areas. There is further information on our website, www.michigan.gov/pheasant, about how to form a neighborhood cooperative.
How much land do you have to have in order to form a cooperative?
Out of a 10,000-acre area, neighborhood pheasant cooperatives need to have 1,500 to 2,000 acres of high-quality pheasant wintering and nesting habitat. Key winter cover includes wetlands with dense cattails and other wetland vegetation and grasslands of switchgrass that provide cover even in deep snow. Important nesting habitat includes grasslands that are not mowed or grazed during pheasant nesting and brood-rearing periods. These may be warm-season grasses such as big and little bluestem, Indian grass and native wildflowers or cool-season grasses such as timothy, brome and clovers. State, federal and local agency staff will provide technical assistance to each cooperative to evaluate existing habitat, make recommendations for habitat improvements to meet the cooperative's habitat goals and how best to secure state and federal resources for habitat restoration, development and maintenance.
Does it cost anything to form a cooperative?
The only cost for participation in the MPRI is the time and commitment required to form a cooperative and make the habitat improvements needed to see more wildlife on your property. Some specific improvements may have a cost associated with them, yet many government programs exist to defray the costs of making habitat investments on your property. Programs are available both for lands with and without a recent agricultural history.
How will habitat improvements occur?
The individual landowner, as part of the neighborhood cooperative, will provide what his/her property is best suited to provide in the way of pheasant habitat. Coupling habitat improvements on private and public lands will provide the full range of habitat types utilized by pheasants and provide both private and public hunting opportunities.
What resources are available to help get this work done?
In addition to the technical assistance provided by staff from various agencies and MPRI partners, we will also work to leverage federal agriculture and fish and wildlife funds as well state programs to fund habitat projects in the cooperatives. Other partners will assist to identify sources of material for habitat work.
How did you select the priority areas?
Habitat models were developed by DNR Wildlife Division staff to identify three areas where pheasants have greatest potential to respond to habitat improvements. Those three-county areas represented high potential for great habitat and have substantial state game area property with high pheasant potential in each of them.
What if I live outside of a priority area?
If you live outside of a priority area, but have been able to form a cooperative based upon the acreage requirements of the initiative, we'd love to work with you. Just contact us using the information below and we'd be happy to work with your cooperative.
What about predators and their impact on pheasants?
Predators are important limiting factors for ground-nesting birds such as pheasants. Numbers of fur-bearing nest predators such as raccoons, skunks, opossums, fox and coyote can be limited through landowner involvement in trapping or hunting or allowing others who trap or hunt these furbearers access to your land when trapping and hunting is legal and the fur is prime in the fall and winter. Avian predators such as hawks and owls cannot be hunted or harmed. However, high quality nesting and wintering habitat can reduce the impact of avian and furbearing predators on pheasants at the times when they are most vulnerable.
Will there be a release of wild birds?
Subject to the availability of wild birds from other states and the conditions in each cooperative, wild pheasants may be released in cooperatives where MPRI habitat objectives have been met and a release will assist in jump-starting a positive population response.
Will there be a refuge area or a closed season in the priority areas for pheasants?
At this time, no season closures are being recommended for pheasants in the priority areas.
Is the initiative just an effort to grow game for hunting?
There is no doubt that the MPRI is designed to expand hunter opportunity, but the goals of the MPRI extend well beyond this. Improving the quality of habitat on public and private land will benefit not only pheasants but a wide variety of game and non-game species. Conversion of croplands to grasslands and wetlands will also result in cleaner surface waters, a reduction in soil erosion by wind and water, improved ground water recharge and reduced flooding.
Hunting and hunters are critical to the rehabilitation of wildlife habitat and the recovery of all kinds of wildlife - both game and non-game. Their license dollars and monies from taxes on sporting arms and ammunition provide the vast majority of funding for wildlife conservation by the State of Michigan. We know that providing habitats is the single most important factor in providing for abundant wildlife, so even if you are not a hunter, you can contribute to wildlife conservation by becoming involved in a cooperative and improving habitat on your land.
How can I get more information?
Just ask! Three landowner workshops took place this winter; but don't worry if you didn't make it to one of those - just visit us on the web at www.michigan.gov/pheasant for additional details.