Paying it Forward for Wildlife and Habitat

93f3c860-7221-4108-b795-0ea4d8d7d3c6
Bird’s-eye view of the Kessler Game Production Area in northeastern South Dakota. Photo by Ben Lardy.

By Matt Morlock, South Dakota State Coordinator and Jared Wiklund, Public Relations Manager

Pheasants Forever has expanded its Build a Wildlife Area® program to South Dakota with the purchase and donation of 440 acres to the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Commission (SDGFP).

Honoring the former commissioner and Pheasants Forever National Chairman Tim Kessler, the newest Game Production Area contains a mix of habitat that will be managed for the benefit of upland wildlife and public access.

The Kessler Game Production Area is part of the Glacial Lakes Region that encompasses much of northeastern South Dakota. Comprised of 236.5 acres of native prairie, 123.73 acres of cropland (planned for prairie conversion) and 79.77 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. The impact Tim 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 SDGFP 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 1980s 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, including a $100,000 donation to the state’s Habitat Conservation Fund.


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!