Local volunteers from the Swift County Chapter of Pheasants Forever recently partnered with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Minnesota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund to acquire 282 acres of public land in the state’s primary pheasant range. Now established as a Waterfowl Production Area (WPA), the Hanson WPA Addition provides nesting habitat and winter cover for pheasants and other wildlife, while expanding public access opportunities in the Prairie Pothole Region.
“We’re always excited for the opportunity to protect upland and wetland habitat in Swift County,” stated Daren Lehne, president of the Swift County Pheasants Forever Chapter. “This large project will have a positive impact on local wildlife, and add much-needed publicly-accessible property in our county."
The Hanson WPA Addition consists of 41 acres of wetland, 197 acres of prairie, and 44 acres of woods supporting a vast array of wildlife including upland birds, waterfowl, grassland songbirds, white-tailed deer, and the eastern wild turkey. After acquiring the property, Pheasants Forever, in coordination with the USFWS Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program, enhanced a large portion of the overall tract by restoring 11 wetland basins (breaking tile, removing sediment, and building dikes) and seeding 122 acres of cropland with a diverse mixture of native grasses and forbs. Minnesota outdoorsmen and women can now look forward to enjoying a pristine and newly renovated public hunting area in the fall of 2018, while making outdoor memories to last a lifetime.
According to Alex Galt, who coordinates the USFWS Partners Program in Swift County, the restoration work on this property revived important habitat components that had once dominated the landscape. “Relatively small, temporary and seasonal wetlands are known to maintain the integrity of prairie wetland complexes,” stated Galt. “These areas complement the larger wetland basins by providing critical waterfowl pair bonding and feeding habitat in the spring. Likewise, the grassland enhancements support the restored wetlands by adding invaluable nesting habitat for pheasants, waterfowl, and other grassland-dependent birds.”
In addition to the chapter’s land acquisition efforts now totaling 982 acres in Swift County and the surrounding area, local volunteers also take pride in tackling the new conservation challenge of the 21st
century – engaging youth in the outdoor lifestyle. Swift County Pheasants Forever is an active youth-based chapter, supporting multiple shooting sports efforts in the county on an annual basis. Since the chapter’s inception in 1985, Swift County chapter volunteers have spent $1.13 million to complete 777 projects impacting 5,887 acres in western Minnesota.
Funding for the Hanson WPA Addition was made possible by the Swift County Chapter of Pheasants Forever, Minnesota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund, USFWS, and USFWS Partners for Wildlife Program. The property is located 15 miles northeast of Benson, Minn. From Swift Falls, travel east on 65th Street NE for three miles, turn left onto 130th Avenue NE for one mile, and turn right onto 75th Street NE for a 1/2 mile before reaching the WPA on the north side of road.
About Minnesota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund
Thirty-three percent of the sales tax revenue from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment is distributed to the Outdoor Heritage Fund
. Those funds "may be spent only to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands, prairies, forest and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife." Pheasants Forever, along with many other non-profit and conservation-minded organizations in Minnesota, have partnered on an annual basis to accelerate its land protection efforts.
About Pheasants Forever
Pheasants Forever, including its quail conservation division, Quail Forever, is the nation's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 140,000 members and 700 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent; the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure. Since creation in 1982, Pheasants Forever has spent $784 million on 530,000 habitat projects benefiting 17 million acres nationwide.
Photo Credits: Alex Galt, USFWS