We evaluated associations between the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) populations by modeling Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) counts of Ring-necked Pheasants during 1987–2005 along 388 routes in nine states. Ring-necked Pheasant counts were analyzed as overdispersed Poisson counts in a Bayesian hierarchical model estimated with Markov-chain Monte Carlo methods. This approach allowed for simultaneous estimation of the relationships between BBS counts and various habitat types, including CRP habitat types, for multiple regions and across the entire study area. The predictor variables included a time trend and percentages of major National Land Cover Dataset 1992 and CRP habitat types within a 1,000-m buffer around each route, along with other patch metrics. The deviance information criterion was used as a guide to help identify the most parsimonious model. We estimated that, on average, there was a positive association of Ring-necked Pheasant counts with the amount of CRP herbaceous vegetation within a 1,000-m buffer around a route. The analysis can be repeated periodically to model changes in Ring-necked Pheasant populations associated with new CRP enrollments and expiration of existing CRP contracts on a large scale. Our methodology can also be extended to other species and to other states and regions.
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Vol. 125 • No. 2