Pheasants Forever increases habitat
WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County Pheasants Forever is gearing up for its 29th annual banquet March 30, during which it will celebrate yet another land acquisition to provide public space for outdoor recreation.
The latest acquisition is a 46-acre parcel in Section 22 of Bigelow Township and, according to Pheasants Forever Chapter President Scott Rall, "fits the bill" in it is within the Lake Bella wellhead protection area. The PF Chapter, in partnership with Worthington Public Utilities, the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), purchased the land.
"The Ocheyedan River passes through the property, which makes this a high priority from a water protection standpoint," Rall said. "These 46 acres also adjoin an existing state-owned and managed wildlife property on two sides. In addition to water quality benefits, wildlife also benefits from more expansive habitat tracts."
The land was purchased from Bob and Catherine Seifert and is currently in ownership transition from the Pheasants Forever chapter to the Minnesota DNR -- a process that may take up to 60 days.
Each time Pheasants Forever purchases a parcel and transfers it to the DNR, a sign is erected to mark the land as a Pheasant Run. This latest acquisition is Pheasant Run 30. Each of the Pheasant Run parcels ranges in size from five acres to 160 acres.
Rall said Pheasants Forever seeks specific parcel types when acquiring land for public use. Many of them consist of sensitive or highly erodible soils, restorable wetlands or along flood-prone stream courses. Of high priority is land within the wellhead protection area, which is where the city of Worthington gets its water supply.
In its 29-year history, the Nobles County Pheasants Forever Chapter has purchased 2,200 acres of land ultimately restored to wildlife habitat
"Even with this substantial level of success, wildlife habitat touched by Pheasants Forever constitutes less than 2 percent of all of the acres in Nobles County," Rall said.
Nearly all of Pheasant Run 30 is enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program and has a monoculture brome grass cover. Plans are to eventually seed the highly erodible land into a mixture of native plants and more than 50 varieties of wildflowers. The restoration will be completed by the DNR, with the local Pheasants Forever Chapter providing some financial assistance.
"Pheasants Forever restores habitat to the benefit of both game and nongame species," Rall said, noting habitat restorations with a wide variety of native wildflowers are needed to help the struggling honey bee population.
"These species bloom from April to October and provide honeybees important sources of food and other nutrients to help them thrive," he added. "Few other organizations come close to planting the number of flowers that Nobles County Pheasants Forever establishes in a year."
Much of the work Nobles County Pheasants Forever is able to do locally is the result of the annual banquet, which is the organization's largest fundraiser.
This year's banquet begins with a 5:30 p.m. Toaster Boaster Hour on March 30, with the dinner to be served at 7 p.m. There are numerous door prizes, raffles and an auction. Tickets are available at Rall Financial Services and Culligan Water Conditioning, both of Worthington, or from any of the 25 Pheasants Forever committee members.
"The funds raised are combined with and matched by other partners, which include the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District, Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Worthington Public Utilities, the Build a Wildlife Area and the Minnesota Habitat Fund," Rall said. "It is these partner contributions that result in locally raised dollars being matched anywhere between three and five times. Without those partnerships, the habitat work Nobles County does would be greatly diminished."
Rall said the partnerships have resulted in habitat expansion that is "unparalleled almost anywhere else in Minnesota or the nation."
The Nobles County Pheasants Forever Chapter ranked No. 1 in the nation in 2010, and was named Minnesota Pheasants Forever Chapter of the Year in 2011. Based on the last reporting period, the local organization ranked 12th in the nation with $230,000 worth of habitat efforts in the last year.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.