Hero of Conservation
WORTHINGTON — Nobles County Pheasants Forever President Scott Rall is one of six finalists chosen from a field of 30 nominees across the country for Field & Stream magazine’s Hero of Conservation award.
The award, now in its ninth year, recognizes individuals who are “leading the charge of change with their passion and dedication to protecting fish and wildlife habitat.” Rall, also an Outdoors columnist for the Daily Globe, was nominated by national Pheasants Forever social media personnel who visited Nobles County last fall as part of a five-state Rooster Road Trip. While here, they visited some of the Pheasant Run parcels acquired by the local chapter to create public hunting space.
Rall has served as president of the local PF chapter for the past eight years. During that time, 18 parcels have been acquired by the chapter and turned over to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for public use. Several of the parcels have also included re-establishing prairie grasses and flowers.
Since the chapter’s beginning in Nobles County, 32 Pheasant Run parcels have been established — the latest of which is a 147-acre plot south of Worthington in the city’s wellhead protection area.
“The pace of our expansion and our work has just skyrocketed. That is due in part to our developing partnerships with the (Okabena-Ocheda) watershed and (Worthington Public Utilities),” Rall said.
In addition, the Nobles County PF Chapter helped launch the Worthington High School trap shooting team, sponsors a firearms safety program, hosts youth and adult mentor hunts and is an annual contributor to the Prairie Ecology Bus Center at Lakefield. This fall, Nobles County Pheasants Forever will host the Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener.
“Nobles County now has 2,500 acres of Pheasants Forever properties to hunt on,” Rall said. “You can bird watch on it — they’re packed full of flowers. There’s lots of other outdoor activities than just hunting.”
That wasn’t always the case.
When Rall’s son, Brandon, was 8 years old, he asked his dad to take him hunting. Rall, a longtime fisherman, soon realized there were few public hunting lands available in the area.
“Good spots you had to pay to lease. You had to have money, which I didn’t have,” he shared.
Rall ended up at a local Pheasants Forever meeting where he met Les Johnson. The two quickly became friends, and Rall had his first pheasant hunting experience with a trained hunting dog thanks to Johnson.
“I shot and missed my first rooster, and Les bagged it,” he recalled. “It didn’t matter. I was hooked.”
Rall said it was the land acquisition opportunities on which Pheasants Forever focused that led him to join the organization in 1988 — two years after the local chapter was established.
“I figured if this dad needed a place to take his kid hunting, lots of other dads needed a place to take their kid hunting,” he shared.
After becoming a member of the Nobles County Pheasants Forever chapter, Rall said he began to understand what prairie was, how unique it was and how endangered the prairie has become.
“I came to appreciate prairie and grassland ecosystems. That initial (experience) just lit a fire for a passion that won’t go out,” he said. “My desire to protect and acquire habitat is greater today than it’s ever been.”
Rall said his motivation to develop grasslands and public spaces has been sparked by the changes in agriculture. When corn reached $7 per acre, it became a challenge for habitat-building organizations like Pheasants Forever.
“Millions of acres of grasslands have been lost in the last three years,” he said. “It’s those challenges that fuel my tank to do more.”
Nowadays, Rall isn’t just looking at parcels that can provide quality hunting ground for the public. Flood control, reduced soil erosion and improved water quality are also part of the motivation behind property acquisitions locally.
“We don’t go try to find a piece of grass now,” he said. “We go out and find a piece of grass that does other things. It’s more than just a place to hunt.”
With 2,500 acres of public hunting ground in Nobles County today — much of it accomplished through the work of Pheasants Forever — Rall has his eyes on future acquisitions.
“At the very minimum, I would like to continue to add grasslands at the rate they’re being lost in other places,” he said.
A brief article on Rall was published in the June issue of Field & Stream, announcing him as one of 30 nominees for the Heroes of Conservation award. The magazine then announced the six finalists on Aug. 8. In addition to Rall, they include Bill Anderson of Altoona, Pa.; Ron Crabtree of Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Ryan Krapp of Bismarck, N. D.; Ken Miracle of Boise, Idaho; and Dr. John Muramatsu of Des Moines, Wash.
As one of the 30 nominees, each individual received $500 from Toyota Motor Co. to put toward his project. Rall’s grant went to Nobles County Pheasants Forever. Now, as one of six finalists, he will receive an additional $5,000 grant from Toyota for the chapter to use on future projects and acquisitions.
The grand prize, to be awarded Sept. 17 during a special Heroes of Conservation Gala in Washington, D.C., is a brand new Toyota Tundra truck.
“I said, if they give the truck away based on need, I’d win for sure. My truck’s got 230,000 miles on it,” he added with a laugh.
“People like myself don’t do what we do for notoriety — for all practical purposes there is none,” Rall said. “(Field & Stream’s) Heroes of Conservation program is a world-class way of showcasing the efforts of conservationists. I believe the outcome of that is most likely increasing the size of the group of people that care about wildlife and conservation — or maybe motivating someone else to become involved.”
A video about Rall and his work in local conservation efforts will be posted to the Field & Stream website later this month. Videos of all of the finalists may be viewed at www.fieldandstream.com/heroes.