Each year, South Dakotans (and their dogs) eagerly await the opening day of pheasant season. For me, there are few things more relaxing than being out in the field with my family and friends on a beautiful South Dakota fall afternoon in hopes of kicking up a few roosters.

With this year’s pheasant opener comes extra excitement, as the statewide pheasant population is estimated to be up 18 percent from last year. That’s not just good news for those of us who like to eat pheasant, it’s also good for South Dakota’s economy.

Every year, sportsmen flock to South Dakota to take advantage of our state’s abundance of hunting opportunities. And the millions of acres of pheasant habitat available to hunters brings in millions more dollars each year. In 2011, the pheasant season had an economic impact of over $225 million, with the majority of the money spent coming from out-of-state visitors, according to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department.

A key contributor to South Dakota’s strong pheasant population, and the economic boon it brings, is our habitat for pheasants. Thanks to programs like the Conservation Reserve Program, South Dakota has developed and maintained a habitat that has helped support our wildlife and our hunting industry.

Protecting our wildlife and hunting industry is one reason I fought to include the Protect our Prairies Act in the House Agriculture Committee-passed Farm Bill. This legislation would encourage conservation of native sod and grasslands by reducing crop insurance assistance for newly converted croplands for the first four years. With a hunting industry as vibrant as we have in South Dakota, this legislation is just common sense. It also saves taxpayer dollars.

To all our pheasant hunters out there, good luck and hunt safely!

Rep. Kristi Noem is South Dakota’s lone U.S. Representative, elected in November 2010. She serves on the Agriculture, Education and Workforce and Natural Resources Committees.

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