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Published September 26, 2009, 11:59 AM

Wildlife officials worry about loss of CRP acres

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — State wildlife officials say the Conservation Reserve Program plays a big role in boosting South Dakota's pheasant population, and they're concerned that fewer acres could mean fewer pheasants.

The agriculture program pays farmers to set aside land for conservation.

South Dakota reached a peak of 1.77 million acres enrolled in 1998. As of July 31, the state had 1.2 million CRP acres enrolled.

GF&P terrestrial program administrator Chad Switzer says the state is losing valuable habitat for pheasants and other wildlife, and it's starting to see that in the populations.

He said the most chilling fact is that the state is set to lose two-thirds of its remaining CRP land over the next five years.