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Scott Rall: Win-win even includes honey bees

Scott Rall

Daily Globe outdoors columnist 

It was on the front page of the Daily Globe last Monday that Julie Buntjer wrote about the most recent habitat acquisition by Nobles County Pheasants Forever.

I was involved with this purchase from the out set and have been involved directly in about 15 others over the past 10 years. Each time we complete one I say it is the very best one we have ever done, and I am saying the same thing again this time.

This parcel is different in many ways from others we have completed and you don’t have to a pheasant hunter to see it, understand it and benefit from it. This particular parcel is located in the dead center of the Worthington municipal water supply. It was considered highly vulnerable to contamination due to its location in the Lake Bella well field and the soil types that allow for almost immediate absorption and infiltration of surface waters directly to the local municipal wells that supply the city of Worthington.

The lake Bella well field supplies almost all of the water needed to keep this city afloat. The water utility recently got a hook-up to the Lincoln-Pipestone water system but it in no way supplies enough to offset but a small percentage of the water that comes from the Lake Bella well field.

We are in a moderate drought situation right now, but in normal years with normal sub-soil moisture a two-inch rain will flow over the well recharge area and can raise the level of the city wells significantly in as little as 48-72 hours. It is because of this direct correlation of surface water to well aquifer that it is so very important for our water supply to be protected from pollution and contamination.

The best way to do that is to cover these sensitive areas with undisturbed grasslands.

What does all this have to do with Nobles County Pheasants Forever and our most recent habitat acquisition? It is because when there is more than one entity who can benefit greatly from undisturbed grasslands we are then able to partner with other entities and make these projects happen.

Pheasants Forever is a habitat organization and one of its goals is to take marginal lands and convert them to permanent grassland habitat for pheasants, deer and all other wildlife. When we acquire margin acres in the well head protection area, Pheasants Forever gets habitat, Worthington Public Utilities gets permanent well head protection with no future cost of maintenance, and the Okabena/Ocheda Watershed gets water resource protection as well — all at a reduced cost to each partner.

Three entities all get 100 percent of what they want and they can pool the resources to get it done. It is a win-win for all of the parties involved.

Each entity achieves 100 percent of their objectives but only has to pay an incremental percentage of the total cost. Pheasants Forever was also able to bring in additional monetary resources from the national organization, and because we also partner with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources we are also able to bring in dollars raised by the habitat license plates you see on cars and trucks in the state.

These license plate dollars are called the Reinvest In Minnesota Critical Habitat Match. They supplement local dollars and in the end create more habitat — and at the same time protect our vulnerable water supply.

Anyone who does not think the most sought-after commodity in the next 50 years is going to be clean, clear drinking water is out of touch.

I said that you did not have be a pheasant hunter to benefit from Pheasants Forever activities, but who else can benefit too? I have said that if every member of the local garden club would tour our projects all of those folks would join Pheasants Forever. The local chapter has planted more wild flowers and other forbs than any other entity in the area. These flowers benefit honey bees, and bees are in trouble across the United States.

There is a movement under way to in the state to mandate that all new seedings include pollinator habitat, and all of the Pheasant Forever habitat restorations always have. Bees are a big deal, and their troubles are a sign that something needs to be done. Pollinator habitat benefits every member of mankind.

I heard it again today that these habitat properties held by the DNR and managed as wildlife management areas don’t pay any taxes. This is just plain false. I did a quick estimate on the most recent acquisition near Lake Bella and the prior owner paid taxes of approximately $2,650 per year, and under the new formula used by the state the revenue coming into Nobles County after the parcel is transferred to the state will be approximately $5,200. These dollars are called payment in lieu of taxes and are designed to compensate the local units of government and the school system for the property taxes that would be paid if it were still in private hands.

These lands require little if any maintenance from the counties and townships in which they are located. Wildlife lands provide revenue but no expense. That also sounds a lot like a win-win on the budget side of life so taxpayers benefit.

When you take into account the multiple benefits that are produced from these types of efforts, it is hard to find a downside.

Nobles County Pheasants Forever is having its 31st annual banquet a week from today at the Long Branch Saloon on April 4. It starts at 5:30 p.m. and tickets are still available. I encourage you to attend a banquet and find out more about what Pheasants Forever is doing in you community. If you like to hunt pheasants we have helped put more of them in the landscape. If you don’t hunt then join the effort to keep our waters clean for generations to come.

You can stop in my office at LPL Financial located at 1321 Smith Ave or stop in at Culligan Water Conditioning or if you prefer. Drop me a note at scottarall@gmail.com and we will get you hooked up with a ticket. Your local chapter is one of the top chapters in the nation. Stop and find out why.

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