Build a Wildlife Area Program Honors Conservationist Tim Kessler by Permanently Conserving 440 Acres in South Dakota

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Sprawling public acreage features pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, waterfowl, and endangered species

By Jared Wiklund, Public Relations Manager for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever

On April 15, 2021 Pheasants Forever’s Build a Wildlife Area® Program announced today that it will honor lifetime conservationist Tim Kessler by permanently conserving 440 acres in Waubay, South Dakota. The land was purchased and donated to the State of South Dakota and will be managed by the state’s Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) department as the new Kessler Game Production Area; honoring the former GFP Commission Chairman and Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever National Board Chairman. The tract contains native prairie, wetlands, and marginal cropland that will be restored and managed for the benefit of upland wildlife and public access.

The Kessler Game Production Area is located just east of Pickerel Lake and is part of the Glacial Lakes Region that encompasses much of northeast South Dakota and stretches along the Coteau des Prairies hills. Comprised of 236 acres of native prairie, 124 acres of cropland (planned for conversion to grasslands restoration) and 80 acres of wetlands, this expansive project is home to some of South Dakota’s most iconic species, including ring-necked pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, and waterfowl, along with the endangered Dakota Skipper butterfly.

“Our vision for the Kessler Game Production Area is helping to ‘pay it forward’ for wildlife and access in honor of an individual who has committed much of his life to conserving South Dakota’s natural resources,” stated Howard Vincent, President and CEO for Pheasants Forever. “The positive impact Tim Kessler has had on wildlife habitat and Pheasants Forever’s mission, not only in South Dakota but throughout the nation, is significant. We couldn’t be prouder to dedicate this diverse, public land project in his honor.” 

As a dedicated outdoorsman, Kessler served on the GFP Commission for 17 years, consistently working to improve and maintain the state’s natural resources. A lifelong resident of Aberdeen, South Dakota, Kessler is also a third-generation family owner of the 1939 establishment, Kessler Food and Drug. He took over the family business in the late 1980’s after graduating from Northern State University in Aberdeen. In 2013, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard recognized Kessler with the state’s “Distinguished Service Award” for his efforts on behalf of the state’s outdoor heritage. This included a $100K donation to help enhance statewide habitat initiatives across South Dakota.

“The team at Game, Fish and Parks wants to thank Tim for his commitment, dedication and contributions to wildlife habitat and sustaining our strong outdoor heritage,” stated Kevin Robling, Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. “We are thankful for this land donation and will ensure it is properly managed for wildlife production while making it a special place for the public to pursue their outdoor passions.”

Pheasants Forever is seeking chapter, partner, and upland hunter support to help fund more landscape-level projects in South Dakota through the organization’s Build a Wildlife Area program. Click here to contribute or learn more.

Donor support of Pheasants Forever’s Build a Wildlife Area® program has permanently protected more than 20 square miles of habitat in 10 states through this unique, partner-driven matching gift program. Through local, state, and federal grants and individual private donations, Build A Wildlife Area designates funds directly toward land acquisition projects to create public access, conserve critical habitat for wildlife, and preserve outdoor heritage traditions. 

The Kessler Game Production Area was made possible by contributions from the following partners: The Kessler Game Production Area is a permanent habitat protection project contributing to the goals of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Call of the Uplands® national campaign - a recently announced monumental initiative to save America’s uplands and cultivate the next generation of conservationists and hunters.