Pheasant capitalism

Auditing South Dakota's state bird

by Frederick Errington and Deborah Gewertz

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The Chinese ring-necked pheasant was named South Dakota's state bird in 1943. Today this “immigrant that made good” remains important to South Dakotans who believe that having their state's symbol to hunt is both part of the good life and indicative that “culture” and “nature” remain in balance. Given ever-more-intensive monocropping, however, the pheasant is in trouble. With its habitat disappearing and its numbers significantly declining, many worry about a pending “ecological rift.” In an effort to recover pheasant numbers without offending agricultural interests, the state's governor held a “summit” that produced various “win-win” proposals, among them, ways to make the propagation of nature in the form of pheasant habitat profitable. In this social history of the pheasant in South Dakota, we use historical-materialist and phenomenological perspectives to explore efforts to harmonize culture and nature through pheasant capitalism.