Rall: Support it, even if you don't hunt
WORTHINGTON -- It has been four months in the making but today is the big day. Tonight at the Long Branch Saloon in Worthington, the local Nobles County Pheasants Forever Chapter will host its 29th annual Fundraising Banquet. This effort is reall...
WORTHINGTON -- It has been four months in the making but today is the big day. Tonight at the Long Branch Saloon in Worthington, the local Nobles County Pheasants Forever Chapter will host its 29th annual Fundraising Banquet. This effort is really quite a concert performance considering there are more than 25 committee members who have been working on it since mid- January.
It is not a secret that many non-profit organizations are struggling across the country with an economy that is less than stellar. This is not the case in Nobles County. Ticket sales have been brisk and, as of Wednesday, the chapter was on track to equal last year, which was one of the best in the chapter's history.
Chapter sponsors are the backbone of the fundraising efforts. They contribute anywhere from $200 to $250 each, depending on the premium they choose. Last year there were 96 sponsors and this year we have 106. What a great testament to the efforts of the local work being done to benefit wildlife habitat in the county.
When I am out calling on people and businesses, I always try to approach people who have never been to a chapter banquet. A certain number of the folks in this category say they are not interested because they do not hunt pheasants.
My response is that a great number of supporters contribute and attend even if they don't hunt. Pheasants Forever does much more than provide places for hunters to chase roosters --even though this is a very important part of what we do. The list of other activities is a long one.
Take, for example, the Prairie Ecology Bus Center in Lakefield. This organization is responsible for getting thousands of young kids out into the tall grass and wading around in wetlands. They expose children to the wonders of nature and start the process of bonding kids to something other than activities that require an electrical outlet. The local chapter has made measurable contributions to this effort and it has nothing to do with hunting.
The local Firearms Safety Program also gets a boost from Nobles County Pheasants Forever for covering the costs of training materials and other hands-on necessities in order to properly train kids on what the business end of a gun can do. As one of the five local instructors, I think every kid in the state should take this program --even if they never intend to hunt. Why you might ask? Guns are a fact of life in America and your child should be knowledgeable and aware of what to do when a gun is present. Knowing when to exit a situation could be a lifesaving skill. Your local chapter of Pheasants Forever helps with this training.
I have often said if I could take every member of the area garden club on a tour of the sites Pheasants Forever has worked on, every member would join Pheasants Forever. As mentioned in a Daily Globe article last week written by Julie Buntjer, the number of wildflowers planted by the local chapter is unequaled by any other entity. When wildlife habitat restoration projects take place anywhere in the county they always include flowers and forbs.
These types of plants benefit pheasants. Pheasant chicks depend on insects for a large part of their diet in the early weeks of life. Broadleaf plants equal insects, so by incorporating them into our restoration efforts, the pheasant chicks benefit --but so do the honey bees. Honey bees are in trouble across the nation and anything that can be done to assist them has value to all who depend on food sources pollinated by bees. Just planting flowers is not enough.
Consideration is given to make sure the flower and forbs mix includes varieties of plants of different colors and those that will bloom from earlier April to October. Different pollinators prefer different colors and proper planning will make the biggest difference. What I have not yet mentioned is just how spectacular these plantings look when you are taking one of those saunters I often recommend. To see 80 acres covered with blooming flowers is a sight hard to find anywhere in Minnesota.
The benefits of being a member of Pheasants Forever continue. The local chapter is the envy of many other municipalities across the state. We have partnered with the local units of government to place grassland habitats in areas invaluable to the protection of the local water supply. These habitat areas reduce chemical runoff as well as reduce soil erosion.
Now that the 100-year rain events happen every 10 years, this important component of Pheasants Forever's work is being appreciated by more and more city folk who have never picked up a gun. Matched dollars from other organizations also reduce the cost to local taxpayers to implement these important programs. Local membership is strong because being a member is a lot more than just having a place to hunt.
Even though it is not the most import thing to all members, let's not forget that having a place to hunt is very important to many of our supporters. We recently announced a 47-acre addition to the Peterson WMA, located just one mile north of Lake Bella. This acquisition is the 30th habitat acquisition for the local chapter. With the help of DNR Area Wildlife Manager Wendy Krueger and her staff, Nobles County has the best public hunting areas available anywhere in the pheasant range in Minnesota.
As a result of having a place to hunt, these areas bring people to our area to recreate. I had a gentlemen drive all the way from eastern Wisconsin to stay in a local hotel, buy gas at the local station and eat in the local restaurant. He is not alone. Whether they drive 20 miles, 200 miles, or 500 miles, these tourism dollars have an impact on the local economy and this is yet another reason to be a member of the local chapter even if you never intend to hunt a rooster.
The list of reasons to support one of the strongest chapters in the nation is longer than the space today. You can still support the local chapter and attend the banquet tonight. There will be tickets available at the door. If you are a last minute shopper, you can contact me at 507-360-6027 and I will save you one of those seats or you can make an appearance at 5:30 p.m. at the Long Branch and my wife can sell you a ticket at the door. It is one of the best banquets in the state.
Scott Rall is the Daily Globe's outdoors columnist. His column can also be read weekly at www.dglobe.com .