BEAVER CREEK - Creating spaces for wildlife habitat that are open for public enjoyment - whether hunting or bird watching, photography or nature walks - isn’t possible without the willingness of landowners to sell property for the purpose of conservation.

As the sun began to peek through the clouds Friday afternoon, Rock County Pheasants Forever celebrated one such landowner who made the new Rooster Ridge Wildlife Management Area a reality.

The 93-acre parcel was purchased from Howard Van Wyhe in 2016 by the Rock County Pheasants Forever Chapter and money from the state’s Outdoor Heritage Fund.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Regional Wildlife Manager Bill Schuna, noting that the transfer of the land to the DNR was completed Tuesday, said 48 acres of the parcel was seeded in April by DNR staff, and includes 62 native prairie species.

“We still have 14 acres of prairie to restore in 2019,” Schuna said.

More than 40 volunteers from Rock County Pheasants Forever, Beaver Creek Sportsmen and the Luverne High School trap team helped prepare the parcel for public use.

Darin Kindt, Rock County Pheasants Forever President, said the project wouldn’t have been possible without the state’s legacy fund, a willing seller, members of the local PF chapter and Beaver Creek Sportsmen’s Club and the DNR.

“Wildlife Management Areas like this are for all Minnesotans - for those who can’t afford property,” said Rick Peterson, chairman of the host committee for the Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener. “Opportunities like Rooster Ridge allow us to walk and hunt this land and enjoy nature and see wildlife.”

Peterson listed off the species he’s seen on the rolling prairie that makes up Rooster Ridge, from deer and pheasants to fox and coyotes. During one visit, he watched five bald eagles on the site.

“It’s a place where I can come and set aside the issues of the day. I can enjoy the property … and when I leave, I’m a better person,” Peterson said.

That’s what public spaces do for all people, and John Edmund, director of Explore Minnesota, said he’s happy to see land dedications becoming a tradition of the MNGPHO.

“These give people access to the outdoors,” Erdman said. “These lands are important for habitat, the public and tourism and will help the tourism industry for many years to come.”

“People rely on these public access sites,” added Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “Anybody can come out here at any time.”