Ridgeway and the surrounding area holds essential nesting habitat for waterfowl and upland birds
By Casey Sill, Pheasants Forever Public Relations Specialist
Ridgeway Waterfowl Production Area in Western Minnesota is named for the beach line of ancient Lake Agassiz. The landorm is still visible on the property’s western side.
The glacial lake expanded and retreated as temperatures shifted between 10-13,000 years ago, its total reach spanning from western Minnesota to far northern Manitoba. As its waters receded for the final time, the lake left behind the raised shoreline and “glacial ridge” that gives this property its name.
Ridgeway sits just southwest of Fergus Falls, Minnesota in Otter Tail County, and is at the northwest tip of a network of WPAs that dot the lakes and sloughs between Fergus Falls and Alexandria. Two new tracts have recently added an additional 300 acres to the property, which now totals over 1,200 acres.
“This property is part of a corridor,” said Tony Rondeau, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife waterfowl expert who’s been involved with Otter Tail County Pheasants Forever for over 30 years. “We want to connect these WPAs and other management areas, so we have a whole series of properties along critical habitat lanes.”
Ridgeway and the surrounding area holds essential nesting habitat for waterfowl and upland birds, including ring-necked pheasants and prairie chickens, but it’s also important cover for countless other birds, pollinators and species of concern. The property has grown exponentially since the first acquisition — two recent additions, the Swenson and Kotts tracts, added 160 and 157 acres to the property, respectively.
Otter Tail County Pheasants Forever paved the way for Ridgeway and other projects in the Fergus Falls area. The chapter was founded in 1985, and as they grew they began investing a significant portion of time and money on land acquisition. They focused specifically on the area south and west of Fergus Falls, and made Ridgeway one of their main priorities.
“Without the direct involvement of the Otter Tail County Pheasants Forever chapter and their committee of volunteers, Pheasants Forever likely wouldn’t have been able to deliver these acres,” said Matthew Christensen, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s field services manager. “The chapter had the relationships, the patience and the foresight to see what an opportunity this area held. Thanks to them it’s now open for anyone to use and enjoy, and will be for generations to come.”
“It takes a catalyst like Pheasants Forever to accomplish projects like Ridgeway, but it also takes partnerships,” added Rondeau. “Partnership is the standard in the habitat world. If you don’t have a partner, nothing is going to work.”
The Ridgeway WPA project received major support from Minnesota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund and the Fergus Falls Fish and Game Club, as well as numerous other local Pheasants Forever chapters.
“There’s a lot of satisfaction when you sit back and look at that property, knowing you had a hand in helping put it together,” Rondeau said. “But mine was a very small hand. There were so many wonderful people and organizations who helped make this project a reality, and I’m incredibly proud to be associated with them.”
Casey Sill is a Pheasants Forever Public Relations Specialist
This story originally appeared in the 2022 Summer Issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a member today!