By James Harris, Ohio Regional Representative
The Hancock County chapter of Pheasants Forever stands out as an example of longevity and adaptability. Chartered in 1989, this dedicated crew of volunteers continue to drive the Pheasants Forever mission in their local community through their outreach and habitat efforts.
The chapter actively promotes and implements prescribed fire, filling a critical need in the state of Ohio. Their burn crew is booked out a year in advance and continue to make a difference by providing landowners with their services, while also raising funds for the chapter to reinvest in habitat.
In addition to their habitat efforts, the chapter has focused on outreach activities in their community, especially youth programs. They have supplied multiple participants for Pheasants Forever’s National Youth Leadership Council, involving them with fundraising events and even on the burn crew.
A specific focus of the chapter has been permanent habitat protection and access, and they have been searching for the right land acquisition project to invest in for several years. But with expensive land prices and minimal public land holdings on which to build, finding a project in their home county has been a challenge. Enter Pheasants Forever’s Build A Wildlife Area Program (BAWA).
In 2020 Pheasants Forever became aware of an acquisition opportunity to expand the Ohio DNR Division of Wildlife’s (ODOW) Big Island Wildlife Management Area. This 421-acre property met all the criteria for a great acquisition project: quality upland and wetland habitat with wild pheasants and numerous other wildlife species benefits, a shared border with a larger block of public land, and a legacy-minded landowner/seller with an interest in seeing this property preserved in perpetuity.
Pheasants Forever worked with ODOW to devise a strategy for acquiring the property. In the end PF applied for and was awarded a Clean Ohio Greenspace Conservation Program grant (through the Ohio Public Works Commission) to cover most of the purchase price. Significant contributions from ODOW and the landowner helped us meet the grant match requirement, but we still needed to build a Stewardship Fund to ensure the property would be properly maintained and managed in perpetuity. As we have done since 1982, staff turned to our Ohio chapters for help.
The Hancock County chapter recognized that this opportunity in a neighboring county was a project they needed to support. When their committee deliberations were complete, Hancock County made a $60,000 leadership contribution towards this land acquisition, sparking other chapters throughout Ohio to support BAWA. Ultimately, the effort permanently protected over 400 acres of prime habitat, providing future generations a place to run their dogs and enjoy the outdoors. It was all was worth this substantial investment, further cementing Hancock County PF’s already impressive conservation legacy.
This story originally appeared in the 2022 Winter 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 Pheasants Forever member today!