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OUTDOORS: Tonight is the big night for Nobles County Pheasants Forever

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sports Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- For some, today is a very big day. The 28th annual Nobles County Pheasants Forever banquet is tonight at the Long Branch Saloon in Worthington. The doors open at 5:30 p.m., and it is going to be a big and rich time if ticket sales are any indication.

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As of last week, there were more than 350 tickets recorded in the ticket sales register book and the organization is expecting another great turn-out. It is very possible that another 100 or so tickets will be sold. This level of ticket sales indicates the level of excitement that surrounds this local chapter, and Nobles County has a lot to be excited about.

Last year the Nobles County chapter was recognized as the No. 1 chapter in the nation. There are more than 735 chapters nationwide. This No. 1 ranking was due to a variety of reasons, but the highest total amount of habitat expenditures was the primary scoring factor.

This year the chapters' progress continues. The Minnesota Chapter of the Year for the past reporting year was none other than Nobles County Pheasants Forever.

The Minnesota award also has several different scoring criteria. A chapter that participated in many of the different state initiatives can score well. The list includes participation in the PF/DNR mentor hunt in October, participating in the funding of the Minnesota Habitat Fund, PF's Legislative Action Fund, Gun a Week raffles and many other statewide efforts.

Nobles County was presented this award at the Pheasants Forever State Convention in Mankato in January. As I was looking through the 2010 Pheasants Forever National Annual Report, I noticed the local Nobles County Chapter was listed several times.

When it comes to total memberships per chapter, Nobles County Pheasants Forever has 244 paid members with 12 of those being Life Members. This ranks the local chapter 17th in the nation of 735 chapters.

Even with the monumental success of the chapter last year as No. 1 in the nation ($1,245,000 in habitat expenditures) Nobles County was still able to reach ninth nationally this year with more than $245,000 in habitat expenditures in the past 12 months.

Most chapters have never made the top 10, and Nobles County has been there many times. Since its start 28 years ago, the chapter has raised and spent just short of $3 million. Less than 5 percent of all chapters have achieved this.

It is important to know that Nobles County Pheasants Forever has not raised all of these dollars from Nobles County. The funds raised at the local banquets are used as seed money to apply for all sorts of other state and federal grants and matching dollar programs. It is the local money -- and up to a five to one matching of those dollars -- that combine to reach these amounts. Local funds of $10,000 raised can attract up to $50,000 in matching dollars.

All of the money raised locally and matched is retained and spent locally for the contributors to enjoy, with 100 percent of the net proceeds raised by local chapters kept by the local chapter.

It is this one-of-a-kind model used by Pheasants Forever that allows participants and contributors to see, use and enjoy the habitats their dollars helped purchase. I feel that is the primary reason for the overwhelming success of Pheasants Forever as a conservation organization.

There are many sources of matching dollars. They include Reinvest in Minnesota and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. North American Waterfowl Conservation Act dollars can also be received depending on the project and if it includes wetland restorations.

Minnesota also has the Build a Wildlife Area program that matches money for habitat work. Success of the chapter, in many cases, depends on well they can push paper and follow the grant and matching dollar trail.

The local chapter committee has more than 20 active members from all over the county. Many have been with the group for the entire 28 years.

There is a combined total of more than 330 years of volunteer experience. And yet there are three new committee members that joined the group this last year.

It takes both the veteran and the excitement and enthusiasm of new members to keep the committee vibrant and active. An aging committee structure is the great challenge to many Pheasants Forever chapters and many have reported they put on an entire banquet with as few as 6 individuals.

New members are always welcome and you can see one of the committee members at the banquet or contact me at rall@knology.net and I will steer you in the right direction.

Tonight's banquet will be full of raffles, live and silent auctions and a very good meal. This year, the committee has added the option of cash payouts instead of the gun or other prize for most of the bigger ticket items. The grand raffle gun is a 3½-inch Benelli Super Black Eagle Camo semi-automatic 12 gauge shotgun or $1,000 cash. The list of prizes is too long to print.

It isn't just hunters that attend this get-together. If you care about clean water, reduced pollution and less soil erosion from wind and water, then your dollars directed to this organization will be well spent. In addition to quality wildlife habitat, these and many other benefits are also achieved.

No one has restored more prairies and native wildflowers than Pheasants Forever. If I could take those folk who love flowers on a tour where they could see more than 100 species of wildflowers in one spot, they would join this effort in a heartbeat.

Tonight is the night and you can still make it to the show. Doors open at the Long Branch at 5:30 p.m., and there will a limited number of tickets available at the door.

If you attend the banquet and win a big prize, this is great. But not all attendees win a big prize. What I do know for sure is that when you drive by, or get out and stand in the tall grass, taking time to admire the sights of plentiful wildlife and beautiful prairies that result from Pheasants Forevers' efforts, at that moment every person is a big winner.

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