The Nature Conservancy and Pheasants Forever announced today a collaborative effort to conserve a 309-acre grassland in Central Minnesota for the benefit of wildlife and Minnesotans. The Conservancy has reached an agreement with the landowner to purchase the property, which will be transferred to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to establish a new state wildlife management area.
In addition to Pheasants Forever, the Conservancy is working with the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and the Paynesville Sportsman's Club to conserve the Kandiyohi County site. These groups have contributed almost $60,000 to help purchase the land, which features wetlands, high-quality grasslands and woods. The property is adjacent to the Conservancy's Regal Meadow Preserve and near the DNR's Stearns Prairie Heritage Wildlife Management Area.
"This is a pretty nice prairie that we'll be able to fully restore to native vegetation," said John Maile, who oversees the Conservancy's work in the surrounding area from its office in Paynesville.
"The land will provide wildlife habitat for pheasant, deer and a number of non-game species," Maile said. "Everyone will be able to enjoy it thanks to the support we received from so many members of Pheasants Forever, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and the Paynesville Sportsman's Club."
Ralph Feld, president of the Stearns County Chapter of Pheasants Forever, which raised $25,000 to conserve the land, praised the collaborative effort. "Anytime we can help our conservation partners purchase a piece of property it is a great thing. It helps wildlife and it's an investment in our future."
The property, which will become Regal Meadow Wildlife Management Area after it is transferred to DNR, had been enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program for 20 years until last year when the contract expired. If the Conservancy had not worked with the state and hunting groups to conserve the land, the owner planned to break the ground and grow organic grains for livestock.
"The cost of habitat conservation continues to rise, which makes partnerships like this even more important to restoring and protecting habitat," stated Matt Holland, senior field coordinator at Pheasants Forever, "When a project like Regal Meadow WMA comes along, it is invigorating to work with so many groups who have a fundamental interest and desire to make a difference for wildlife habitat."
To help purchase the property, six Pheasants Forever chapters contributed a total of $44,750; five Minnesota Deer Hunters Association chapters combined to provide $11,600; and the Paynesville Sportsman's Club gave $1,500. Private donations from these groups and the Conservancy will be matched via the Reinvest In Minnesota Critical Habitat Matching program with dollars from the sale of conservation license plates.
Tom Landwehr, assistant state director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, said the project is a model for how state and local groups can help conserve, restore and enhance wildlife habitat under the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which is on the Nov. 4 ballot.
"An important element of this collaborative conservation effort has been match funding from the Reinvest in Minnesota Program," Landwehr said. "Match funding makes these types of projects very attractive to local groups. Dedicated funding could provide direct grants right to local groups to do similar habitat conservation projects. Catalyzing local involvement—by rewarding local efforts—is key to a successful implementation of dedicated funding."
Mark Johnson, president of MDHA, said collaboration between conservation and sportsman's groups can help conserve wildlife habitat and increase public access for outdoor recreation. "The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association is always excited about working with interested parties to create and enhance state wildlife management areas. They are the future of hunting access in Minnesota," he said.
In Minnesota, the Conservancy has helped conserve more than 350,000 acres since 1958. The Conservancy owns a total of 3,079 acres at five preserves—Regal Meadow, Ordway Prairie, Moe Woods, Sheepberry Fen and Leif Mountains—in the Ordway-Glacial Lakes conservation area, a 371,000-acre landscape of rolling hills, prairies, forests and wetlands in west-central Minnesota. The Conservancy has 23,000 members in Minnesota and offices in Minneapolis, Cushing, Paynesville, Grand Rapids, Glyndon, Duluth, Karlstad, Mentor and Preston. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org/minnesota.
Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are non-profit conservation organizations dedicated to the protection and enhancement of pheasant, quail, and other wildlife populations in North America through habitat improvement, land management, public awareness, and education. PF/QF has more than 129,000 members in 700 local chapters across the continent.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.