By KIM FUNDINGSLAND
Matt Olson, Pheasants Forever
FORMAN - The national conservation organization "Pheasants Forever" recently named Matt Olson regional representative for North Dakota. Olson started with Pheasants Forever in 2009. Most recently he was one of the organization's five North Dakota farm bill wildlife biologists.
Olson earned a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Management in May of 2003 from Dakota College in Bottineau and another in zoology with an emphasis in Wildlife and Fisheries Management in 2005 from North Dakota State University.
The following is an interview with Olson regarding pheasants and the role of Pheasants Forever in North Dakota.
MDN - You are stationed in Forman. Is that home?
Olson - I grew up in Fort Ransom, south of Valley City about 20 miles. I was born, educated, raised, grown up, worked in North Dakota my whole life.
MDN - Is North Dakota's changing landscape your biggest challenge?
Olson - We are dealing with issues from both sides, crop production and energy development. It's tough. We've got to work with them on the landscape and keep plugging away and get conservation on the ground where we can.
MDN - Do you have a main goal?
Olson - Basically to enhance North Dakota's conservation, to keep and maintain North Dakota's rich hunting heritage. Hunting has always been a part of North Dakota. One of the challenges is youth. It is hard to get youth out and find places to hunt and experience what we experienced when we were young.
MDN - How do you accomplish that?
Olson - A lot of our chapters are doing youth events, really a good thing. Our demographics now is a lot of older hunters. We missed almost half a generation. We need to get ahead of that and get those kids involved. It doesn't always have to be hunting, just camping or being on the land.
MDN - Isn't this is a tough year for your position with pheasant numbers down?
Olson - We're pretty much down all across the Upper Midwest. I think Game and Fish numbers came out right about 30 percent down. South Dakota is down 60 percent, which is going to be a big hit for them. It is going to be a tougher hunt this year, but I think there still is going to be a lot of good adult birds out there.
MDN - How many Pheasant Forever chapters do you oversee?
Olson - We are up for chapters and members. Right now I think North Dakota has 27 chapters. We are getting close to banquet season now. A lot of banquets happen from now to the middle of November.
MDN - Why should someone join Pheasants Forever?
Olson - Really we are just very efficient with our dollars. We've won awards for efficient spending. We put all the money back in. The nice thing is, on the chapter level, we give them the power to say what they can do with the dollars they raise. They determine what they want to do. A local, community feel is what we shoot for.
MDN - Are you optimistic about North Dakota's pheasants?
Olson - Yes. I feel good about North Dakota. It has always been a heavy conservation state. That goes back as long as I can remember. We're going to come out ahead, just need cooperative weather. That's the great thing about pheasants, a couple of years of just right conditions and things can turn around pretty quick.
CRP acres are not what they used to be. We are seeing the downward trend because of this. We have farm bill biologists that work on habitat projects out of the NRCS offices. They know CRP and some of the other wildlife friendly farm bill programs out there. If I can't help, others on the team can.