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Management concerns

Courtesy Game and Fish Dept. Game and Fish officials will update the public on the various concerns facing wildlife and fisheries management at advisory board meetings in April.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department holds advisory board meetings twice a year to update outdoorsmen and landowners throughout the state on the issues that may affect them.

And with another round of meetings coming down the pike starting the second week of April, there are several issues of concern for the department, many dealing directly with how a severe winter has affected wildlife populations and the state's fisheries.

"In winters like this, where you're just going to have some losses due to difficult weather conditions, what happens is people really start to appreciate, if you will, how lucky we've had it over the last decade in terms of wildlife populations and hunting opportunities," said Randy Kreil, chief of the wildlife division of the NDGF. "We've gotten a lot of calls about losses of wildlife this year, particularly deer and pheasants around the state."

Scott Gangl, the fisheries management section leader for the NDGF, said the lakes and waterways of the state have several issues, including winterkill, but they had some advantages the wildlife side doesn't.

"They're facing a hard winter and then when they come out of winter, there's not going to be much habitat left," Gangl said. "With us, were facing a hard winter, but our habitat is improving."

Gangl said a combination of dryer conditions in years past and new, fresh runoff flowing into the fisheries throughout the state could possibly lead to the rejuvenation of several that had otherwise suffered before.

There are situations where there was a complete winterkill this year, however. Gangl said they will aggressively attempt to restock those fisheries where it can be done effectively.

"The long-term benefits of getting all this water back are going to outweigh the short-term losses that we're going to see in some of these fish populations," Gangl said.

Fish will have plenty of habitat in the coming year to be able to rebound quickly, wildlife may not, Kreil said.

This is the toughest winter we've had in over a decade, Kreil said, adding the last winter like this came in 1996-1997, but populations rebounded relatively quickly.

"In that case (the winter of 96-97) wildlife populations bounced back, but remember, that was at the height of the CRP program," Kreil said. "The bounce-back is going to be inhibited by the fact that we're losing CRP and not getting any new CRP enrolled."

Because of new regulations in the program focusing on wetlands, most of southwestern North Dakota will be left without CRP by 2012.

"It just doesn't seem like it's resonated with people that by 2012 there's basically going to be no CRP left in southwest N.D.," Kreil said.

Kreil said once the pheasant population estimates are in by early-summer they will have a better idea of the strategy for the coming year.

But despite how things look for wildlife in the state, Kreil stressed there are other people with just as big of concerns.

"This winter has been tough on wildlife, but let's not forget how tough it's been on people," Kreil said. "Especially people that are livestock producers, this has been a tough, tough winter and we feel for them."