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Walz promotes farm bill

Kayla Strayer/Daily Globe Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz came back empty handed while pheasant hunting Monday afternoon in Rushmore.2 / 3
Kayla Strayer/Daily Globe Pheasants Forever members Les Johnson (left) Scott Rall and Tim Walz pose with their hunting dogs and pheasants. Along with hunting, the group discussed wildlife conservation.3 / 3

RUSHMORE -- U.S. Rep. Tim Walz spent a few hours away from campaigning Monday afternoon to do something he rarely gets to -- wear a bright-orange colored vest and hat.

Walz, a Minnesota democrat endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), met with Nobles County Pheasants Forever members Scott Rall and Les Johnson to hunt pheasants on about 75 acres of prairie land outside of Rushmore.

Other than game, the hunters discussed the importance of legislation to protect and conserve wildlife and farmland.

One piece of legislation currently in the works is the Farm Bill, which would provide updates to the nation's agriculture and wildlife policies.

Rall was thankful for uninterrupted time with the congressman to provide his input on the bill, agriculture and conservation issues, and how to get political parties to work together.

"The Farm Bill encompasses all of the conservation programs, and lots of things necessary in order to protect, enhance and deal with wildlife," Rall said.

"We have to have smart policies, and that's what these guys (talked about) today," Walz said. "It's my job to go back and get a Farm Bill done."

Preserving habitat and hunting grounds

The congressman said long-term plans are needed to keep the hunting habitat available for future generations.

"We have a real obligation to preserve its fertility and farm ability for generations to come," Johnson agreed. "We should also preserve an outdoor enjoyment."

"I try to be an optimist, but it's hard when the crop prices are so high," Johnson said. "I'm hoping politicians can work together to find balance."

Why it matters

Walz said Minnesota outdoor sports generate a billion dollars a year in revenue, which trickles down to the local economy.

"It matters because it's clean air, clean water and hunting activities along with economic growth," Walz said of the Farm Bill.

"This cuts across the political spectrum," Walz added. "If we do this right, this is here for future generations."

"It's generating wealth, protecting the water, and it's giving us the activity that many of us grew up doing- hunting, and some of us even hitting things when we do that," Walz said, laughing.

Regarding conservation programs, Walz said, "If we're asking farmers to take land out of production, we need to give them some incentives."

He hopes the bill will be passed by February.

Hunting results

Walz blamed himself for not catching any pheasants during the hunt, adding that it wasn't because his guides, dogs or the habitat.

"Even twenty years ago, this many pheasants would have been unheard of," Walz said. "You would have had to go to South Dakota."

While Walz came back empty-handed, Johnson had a different story.

"With the help of my out-standing young dog, we came back with our limit of birds, which is two," Johnson said.

"I'm surprised at the number of birds that we saw," he added. "It was a good nesting season, and that's what we hope for."

"I've never seen so many pheasants in Minnesota in one place," Walz agreed. "I think the future looks bright as long as we have committed landowners like these."

"It was educating, entertaining and very fun," Rall said of the hunt. "I was able to get Tim to absorb (the local perspective). "If I accomplished that, then I've done what one voter in southwest Minnesota can do."

Looking ahead

"You can always have a greater effect in Washington than you can with our local (Pheasants Forever) chapter," Rall said. "The work we do locally, although important, doesn't have as big of an impact."

To help with the cause, Rall said people can join hunting organizations, and challenge their representatives to take on wildlife conservation.

"Hunters spend more time, money and energy on wildlife causes," he said. "They are the bedrock of conservation and wildlife management."

"Tim is very optimistic about conservation and wildlife," Rall said. "I can tell you that wildlife has never been more of a challenge than it is today."

Johnson said area wildlife needs to have a place to survive winter, food supply and a safe nest for their young.

"We're at a crossroads today between making a dollar and trying to sustain wildlife," Rall said. "We'll remain optimistic and hope for a good Farm Bill."

Daily Globe Reporter Kayla Strayer may be reached at 376-7322.