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Pheasant Fest breaks mark for attendance

ST. PAUL -- Pheasants Forever's National Pheasant Fest 2008 and 25th Anniversary Convention presented by Cabela's concluded Sunday, drawing 29,802 people to the St. Paul RiverCentre for the three-day event. The attendance mark made the event the ...

ST. PAUL -- Pheasants Forever's National Pheasant Fest 2008 and 25th Anniversary Convention presented by Cabela's concluded Sunday, drawing 29,802 people to the St. Paul RiverCentre for the three-day event. The attendance mark made the event the largest in Pheasants Forever history.

Despite frigid sub-zero temperatures in St. Paul, visitors turned out to see over 300 unique exhibitors, hundreds of bird dogs, and dozens of educational seminars. The attendance total included over 2,000 new PF members who joined over the three days of the event. Last year's Fest in Des Moines, Iowa, set the previous attendance high when 24,510 people passed through the turnstiles of the Iowa Events Center.

Conservation policy debate took center stage at National Pheasant Fest 2008. After delivering a keynote address to PF members Friday night, Acting U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner announced an important addition to the Conservation Reserve Program at a press conference Saturday morning. Secretary Conner announced approval for 45 proposals of State Acres For wildlife Enhancement projects covering nearly 260,000 acres in 18 states. SAFE proposals encourage state-specific wildlife focused projects. The Minnesota-approved SAFE practice, called the "Minnesota Back Forty," is specifically targeted at improving habitat for pheasants and has been allocated over 23,000 acres in the CRP.

Directly following the SAFE announcement was PF's Farm Bill Forum, which included this year's first joint public appearance by Secretary Conner, U.S. Senate Ag Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and U.S. House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).

"Conservation loses dramatically without a new Farm Bill now, so we thank Secretary Conner, Chairman Harkin and Chairman Peterson for their willingness to attend National Pheasant Fest 2008 and to have an open discussion regarding current Farm Bill negotiations and conservation programs," said Dave Nomsen, PF's Vice President of Government Affairs, who also took part in the forum.

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Other dignitaries to take part in PF's weekend festivities included U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Dale Hall, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), who delivered the keynote addresses at Saturday's luncheon, Representatives John Kline (R-Minn.) and Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.), St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, John Johnson, Deputy Administrator for the USDA's Farm Service Agency, and former Minnesota Vikings head coach Bud Grant, an avid outdoorsmen who also served on PF's National Board of Directors.

Pheasants Forever formally celebrated a quarter-century of wildlife habitat success with its 25th Anniversary Banquet on Saturday night. Arlen Lancaster, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, read a letter from President George W. Bush recognizing PF's 25 years, as well as delivered the banquet's keynote address. NRCS, USFWS and the FSA recognized PF with awards marking 25 years of conservation success.

-- Pheasants Forever

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