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Getting the best bang for the buck, Kandiyohi PF chapter nears $6 M in local, habitat work

WILLMAR - Kandiyohi County's Pheasant Forever chapter made history in 1983 as the first to organize outstate and to host its own banquet. It took a lot of faith, and risk. The organizers personally signed for the banquet expenses without knowing ...

Tribune file photoMike Olson of Three Dog Guide Service holds a pheasant bagged during a youth mentor hunt in this Tribune file photo.
Tribune file photo Mike Olson of Three Dog Guide Service holds a pheasant bagged during a youth mentor hunt in this Tribune file photo.

WILLMAR - Kandiyohi County's Pheasant Forever chapter made history in 1983 as the first to organize outstate and to host its own banquet.

It took a lot of faith, and risk. The organizers personally signed for the banquet expenses without knowing whether they'd raise enough money to cover them. They sold tickets and solicited contributions for an organization no one had heard of at the time.

The 1983 event proved so successful that it became the model now followed by PF chapters across the nation. The local organizers insisted that the funds raised locally remain at home for habitat projects in the county.

And they've stuck to it. As it prepares for its 37th annual annual banquet on March 30, the Kandiyohi County chapter is on the verge of reaching $6 million invested "on the ground," all of it committed in the county, according to Kevin Ochsendorf, chapter president.

All these years later, the chapter remains strong and committed to habitat acquisition and restoration, he said. "It seems to be improving every year,'' said Ochsendorf when asked how things are going for the chapter.

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It's been able to have a nearly $6 million impact by matching the funds it raises locally with grant programs. Last year the local chapter raised $20,000 and was able to make possible $200,000 worth of work, Ochsendorf explained. Its hoping to turn a $40,000 commitment of local funds this year into $400,000 worth of work.

It's all about habitat, which benefits all wildlife, as well as water quality, he pointed out.

Pheasants Forever has been at the forefront in capitalizing on the opportunities that the Legacy Amendment has made possible, according to Cory Netland, wildlife manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in New London.

Thanks to the Kandiyohi County PF chapter, the DNR is currently restoring native grasses and forbs on 50 acres of land in the Cabinrock Wildlife Management Area southeast of Sunburg. Five wetlands will be restored in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the site.

Pheasants Forever recently made possible the acquisition of the Lake Eleanor WMA and Atwater WMA, and was awarded grant funds that will make it possible to restore wetlands there.

The local chapter has also worked extensively with the USFWS wetlands office in Litchfield on projects in the area. The Litchfield office currently has about $1 million worth of habitat improvement grants in its seven county area, with a little over half of that commited in Kandiyohi County, according to Scott Glup, project leader for the district.

The partnership between USFWS and the local chapter is making possible prairie and wetland restorations on WMAs and Waterfowl Production areas including Ella Lake, the Florida Slough, and Henjum Lake in the county. Some 834 acres of habitat will be improved from brome grass to a mix of native grasses and forbs.

Other projects include work in the Big Kandi and Mamre WPAs.

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A 10 percent grant by the local PF chapter is what it takes to trigger much of this work, Glup pointed out.

Ochsendorf got involved with the local PF chapter roughly 16 years ago while he worked in marketing for UBC in Willmar. Todd Iverson, a co-worker, was serving as chapter president and knew that Ochsendorf was an avid hunter. "You ought to be in Pheasants Forever,'' Ochsendorf said Iverson told him. "I went to a meeting and the rest is history.''

The local chapter benefits by the experience of many, long-time members. One member marked 35 years with the chapter last year, and four more are doing so this year.

Ochsendorf said the chapter is focused now on getting more young people, men and women alike, involved. He believes it is especially important to get young mothers involved when their husbands are members. Get the mother involved, and you've got the kids involved, he explained.

The local chapter is also doing its part to get youth involved. It hosts youth hunting excursions, and works with young people on a range of projects. It's working with the New London-Spicer schools on a pollinator project this coming year. Last year, the local chapter played a big role in helping plant over an acre of pollinator habitat on the grounds of the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning.

There's plenty yet to do, and the enthusiasm to do it remains, according to the chapter president. "We just keep on plugging away," he said.

For more information about the local chapter, and how to get involved or get tickets for the annual banquet at the Willmar Convention Center, check out the chapter's Facebook page or www.kandipf.com

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Related Topics: KANDIYOHI COUNTYHUNTING
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