Date of this Version
For at least twenty years the thinking of wildlife managers has been directed toward the importance of habitat in producing surplus game populations for hunting. The decline or disappearance of game populations - often over considerable areas - following changes in habitat brought about by agricultural, urban, or industrial developments demonstrates clearly the effects of the elimination of desirable habitat. Suitable habitat is basic to the survival of wildlife. Many field observations and experiences, as well as specific data from research, validate this conclusion. Where a harvestable surplus of game cannot be maintained because of changes made by man in the habitat, the obvious answer is: Restore the habitat. There are many practical and fundamental challenges to this objective.
As this principle gained support, funds needed for habitat improvement were made available to the states with the enactment of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration (Pittman-Robertson) Act of 1937 State Fish and Game Departments immediately began or expanded studies on the ecology and management of wildlife species, and projects designed to restore habitat soon were initiated. After a general curtailment of these programs during World War II, the states reactivated or initiated more extensive programs after 1945. By 1951 the majority had made habitat improvement a major feature of their programs.
Much of the emphasis in habitat restoration has been placed on farm-game species. There are several reasons for this-both basic and superficial. When conditions are favorable to wildlife, fertile agricultural areas are highly productive of farm game. Species in this classification have a high reproductive potential and a relatively low mobility. As expressed in the annual hunter-kill reports of most states, farm game is more readily available to a larger number of hunters than other classes of wildlife. The existence of a land-use program through soil conservation districts creates convenient administrative channels.
Although six years is a short time to show results in any program dealing with ecological changes, the present report outlines the conclusions reached in an attempt to evaluate current farm-game habitat development programs in fifteen states. Actually to these six years must be added the experiences accumulated from about 1933 through 1945, even though the earlier activities may have been more sporadic and piece-meal than since that time. The work was carried out between October 1, 1951 and June 30, 1952 and the following states were visited: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.