JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Austin Lang went to college intending to be an eye doctor or a chiropractor. Problem was, he didn’t enjoy all the chemistry and math classes he had to take. A conservationist suggested he spend the summer working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

And Lang was hooked.

“I love the outdoors. I love conservation and doing what I can with the land,” he says.

Lang recently joined Pheasants Forever as a precision ag and conservation specialist, a move back into conservation work after a few years working in agronomy and ranching.

Lang grew up near Streeter, N.D., and conservation was a constant in his life. He remembers his parents working with the local soil conservation district. Those same soil conservation folks got Lang interested in range judging in FFA. During high school, he spent a summer working at the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center in Streeter.

After college, Lang joined the NRCS and spent 15 years in nine NRCS locations. When he found his positions there becoming more tied to bureaucratic practices that put him in front of a computer, Lang left to work in sales agronomy. Though he liked the work, it didn’t provide for much time with his family. After a stint in ranching, Lang took his new job at Pheasants Forever, where he could get back to the hands-on conservation work he enjoys.

At Pheasants Forever, Lang will be working with people who own or manage land to help them find ways to improve their land. While improving habitat for pheasants and other upland species is a key, Lang says it’s not just a matter of putting more land into grass and not touching it. It’s about finding ways to manage land so that it benefits both landowners and wildlife.

“We’re trying to leave productive acres productive and take those acres that aren’t very profitable and get a better return on them,” he explains.

For instance, if a gravelly or sandy hill isn’t working for corn, Lang says maybe it could be planted to oats or rye or cover crops instead, a way to get a better return on investment for marginal acres.

Lang will be working with producers through Pheasants Forever programs, like the Soil Health and Habitat Program and programs tied to North Dakota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund, but he’ll also be trying to line land managers up with other assistance through other conservation or government programs. He’s assigned to an area in North Dakota from western Stutsman County to Fargo and south to Wahpeton.

Anyone interested in talking to Lang about conservation programs should contact him at alang@pheasantsforever.com or 701-840-3062.