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Harsh winters, habitat loss hurts Plains hunting
Habitat loss as farmers return land to production hurts wildlife, hunting in northern Plains
By The Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) ' Hunters in the northern Plains who've grown accustomed to bringing home several pheasants or a deer are finding that the years of abundance may be over.

Wildlife and conservation experts say three brutal winters and a steady loss of habitat have hurt reproduction and reduced the number of animals.

Wildlife flourished during several decades in which the federal government paid landowners not to farm their property. But land is now being pulled out of the voluntary Conservation Reserve Program because high crop prices have made farming more profitable.

More than one-fifth of the nearly 30 million acres in the program could come out by September.

Dave Nomsen of Pheasants Forever says with that kind of habitat loss, the bird population will never come back, even with relatively mild winters.

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