Nobles County Pheasants Forever adds land
WORTHINGTON -- The Nobles County Pheasants Forever chapter will celebrate the recent purchase of two parcels during the organization's annual banquet later this month in Worthington.
The newly acquired land includes a nearly 18-acre parcel purchased from John and Yolanda Donkersloot and a 23.4-acre parcel purchased from Gary and Virginia Drost. Both properties are located in Section 26 of Bigelow Township.
Local PF Chapter president Scott Rall said the acquisitions, finalized in late February, are key to improving wildlife habitat in southern Nobles County.
"Wildlife habitat does best in complexes," Rall explained. "You will raise more pheasants, more ducks, more game in one large tract than you will in the same amount of acres split up into five or six small tracts."
The two new parcels adjoin land previously purchased by the PF chapter, including Pheasant Run 1. Two other parcels in the neighborhood -- former Hallstrom and Christopherson properties -- were acquired in 2008 by the organization.
"We've completed seven land acquisitions in 18 months," said Rall. "That makes your local chapter truly one of the leaders nationally from a habitat on the ground perspective. We were fourth in the nation and second in Minnesota for the last reporting period for dollars raised and habitat produced.
"I think there's a very good chance we'll be No. 1 in the nation for the next reporting period," he added.
As with all of the land previously purchased by the Nobles County PF chapter, the two recent acquisitions will be transferred to the state to be developed as wildlife management areas. Rall expects the transfer to be completed by Dec. 1.
Rall said the latest land purchases make it possible to connect smaller parcels previously purchased by Pheasants Forever in Bigelow Township and square them off into a complex. Doing so makes it easier for hunters to identify the boundaries of the public hunting ground.
The marginal land also meets the organization's objective. The Donkersloot parcel has been enrolled in the CRP program, and the Drost land will be seeded to grass this fall by the Department of Natural Resources.
While there will be a definite boost to wildlife with the purchase of the two parcels, the acquisitions will also benefit the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District.
"The reason that we are excited (is), as a watershed district, we get habitat, plus the public gets these other benefits too," said OOWD administrator Dan Livdahl. "It's been a great partnership locally in Bigelow Township."
Livdahl said the new acquisitions are located within the Lake Bella wellhead protection area, which is why both the watershed district and Worthington Public Utilities offered funding to help purchase the parcels.
"The Christopherson property is a very high priority area and an area that Lake Bella's well field recharges from," said Livdahl. "Holding water there should improve water quality and the amount of water that's available for the city of Worthington."
Other agencies also contributed to the funding pool for the land acquisition. Livdahl said money was received from the Build a Wildlife Area program, the Minnesota Habitat Fund, and a grant through the North American Waterfowl Conservation Act.
The Minnesota Habitat Fund, created by metro-area Pheasants Forever chapters, distributes money to chapters in Greater Minnesota involved in projects to improve pheasant habitat; while the Build a Wildlife Area program involves matching funds from corporate sponsors.
"Each privately-raised dollar can be matched four or five times," said Rall of the program. "Those dollars are doled out to many different area wildlife projects."
Banquet is March 27
The local Pheasants Forever Chapter has a 25-member board, many of whom have been involved in the organization since it was established in Nobles County 26 years ago.
"We've just got a great committee," said Rall. "That is the reason behind our success. There's no doubt that it is the volunteers that make it go."
The chapter will host the 26th anniversary Pheasants Forever banquet at 5:30 p.m. March 27 at the Long Branch in downtown Worthington. The evening will include a meal and numerous raffles. The grand raffle this year is an SKB Over-Under shotgun.
Tickets for the banquet may be purchased in advance at Rall Financial Services in Worthington, or from any board member. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door.
Rall said it's more important than ever for people to show their support for the local chapter.
"The Minnesota DNR budget is currently on the chopping block with a 23 percent cut," he said. "Those funds are even more important in times of severe budget shortfalls."
In addition to hosting the annual banquet, Pheasants Forever sponsors the Worthington Firearms Safety Program, has made a substantial contribution to the Prairie Ecology Bus Center and, later this year, will co-sponsor the DNR-Pheasants Forever Youth Mentor Hunt, slated for the second weekend of the pheasant hunting season.