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GOOD NEWS TAB PART 1 -- His 'fields of dreams' provide wildlife cover

Pheasants benefit from better habitat

Associated Press

CORRECTIONVILLE, Iowa -- Lewis Byers is building what he calls "fields of dreams" to attract pheasants and other wildlife.

"If you build it, the pheasants will come," he said on a recent land tour in near Correctionville.

Byers, a Pierson farmer and landscape contractor, is a member of the Woodbury County Pheasants Forever Chapter who has an active interest in restoring habitat to the county landscape. Byers has installed buffer strips on his property and others for hire as he has branched out into the habitat business.

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"I go around and seed a lot of those buffer strips for farmers," he said.

Most of these buffer strips are built in conjunction with the National Conservation Resource Service office in Sergeant Bluff. Byers has a machine called a seed drill that looks like a crop planter that cuts the ground and plants native wild grass seeds without tilling.

"That's what this is all about -- putting better habitat out there for the pheasants," he said.

While conservationists and hunters may be excited about the programs, it takes some incentive to convince farmers to plant some of their most productive fields in chest-high grass. That incentive comes in the form of a government check for idling the land.

"If they (farmers) are sportsmen, they are for it," he said. "If they are not really environmentally minded they're not as gung ho. They're after acres and the almighty dollar. You have to decide what you value: Do you want to see nature or the greenbacks."

The NRCS encourages buffer or filter strips near ditches and waterways to reduce soil erosion and to enhance water quality by filtering farm chemicals. Placing land out of production also reduces the over production of grain and helps stabilize prices.

"We are giving up our best farm ground next to these streams," Byers said. "But if you are an environmentally minded farmer, you're benefitting the whole country."

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