INGHAM COUNTY, MI –The tall waning grasslands of the greater Ingham County area houses a myriad of creatures–part of the Meridian Township charm, according to its mosaic of residents. But with the fast-changing landscape of suburban Lansing, some of the untouched habitats get destroyed, leaving their inhabitants left behind.
Victoria Herceg sees the beauty of Meridian Township in the wildlife and notices the efforts to preserve it.
“There’s a lot of wildlife here, lots of deer,” Herceg said.
“We saw a group of people in our backyard by our house. They were called Pheasants Forever, I think.”
Pheasants Forever is a national organization working to preserve habitats for pheasants and other animals left behind. The Ingham County chapter of Pheasants Forever gives its energy to restoring the declining population of the once largely hunted bird.
Chad Fedewa, a biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said suburban expansion and farming has destroyed much of the grasslands that songbirds call home. Fedewa says expanding bee and butterfly populations — consumed by baby pheasants — is helpful in growing the population as well.
“What is particularly unique about pheasants is that people grew up hunting them,” Fedewa said. “It’s somewhat nostalgic for a lot of people in that regard…but you don’t find pheasants as you used to across the state.”
Pheasants Forever officials say they’re doing a lot to get the community involved in the songbird’s habitat restoration as well.
Bob Payne, board member of Pheasants Forever, said they’ve worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the DNR and farmers to provide seeding for grasslands. They’ve also worked on purchasing and renovation of new land for hunting game.
“We all see what we can do together to make a change,” said Bill Vander Zouwen, regional field representative for Michigan.
Zouwen said there’s been a 53% decline in birds over the past 50 years in North America.
“We see pheasants as the poster child for songbirds and other lost birds,” he said. “Basically I’m a liaison between the nation and chapters to help to raise funds for our mission to preserve habitats and raise the next generation of hunters and future conservationists.”
Tom Kennedy, president of the Ingham County Pheasants Forever chapter, said they’re planning events this fall for local families to learn how to help with habitat restoration in their own backyards.
“Not only will this be a showpiece for Pheasants Forever, but it shows what people can do on their own property for bees and butterflies,” said Kennedy.
“Everything needs someplace to go.”