Pheasants Forever Completes 500th Public Lands Project in Minnesota

The Habitat Organization is celebrating its 500th public lands project completed in Minnesota, a milestone reached in the first quarter of 2024. Since its founding in St. Paul in 1982, Pheasants Forever has acquired and restored more than 70,000 acres of public lands throughout the state, adding valuable wildlife habitat and recreational access to a region of the country which thrives on outdoor opportunities.  

“It’s huge,” State Coordinator Sabin Adams said. “It shows the dedication of everyone involved, from supporters to landowners to partners and finally to the professionals on our employee team. There is so much hard work that no one ever sees that goes into these projects, to hit a number like this is amazing.” 

Pheasants Forever land acquisitions start at the grassroots level. “While these projects are funded largely through grants and partnerships, without that first dollar raised by chapter volunteers with the support by the local community, none of this happens,” said Eran Sandquist, Midwest Region Director of Conservation Delivery. “That’s where it all begins. Those initial funds cover project match, personnel and other indirect costs. They let us prove that the project has public backing and when we go to a partner, they know that we can meet our commitments.” 

In Minnesota, conservation professionals acknowledge one of the largest boosters for public land acquisitions has been the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. Approved by voters in 2008, The amendment increased the state’s sales tax by 3/8 of one percent. One third of those funds go into the Outdoor Heritage Fund (OHF), the primary driver of acquisitions. Those funds “may be spent only to restore, protect and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests and habitat for fish, game and wildlife.” Areas acquired through the OHF must be open for public hunting and fishing. 

Funding acquired through the OHF is often further leveraged through North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants. This federal program is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and provides matching grants to support public-private partnerships providing long term protection of wetlands and upland habitats. 

Additionally, the growth of Minnesota public lands habitat and access has been supported by Pheasants Forever’s Build a Wildlife Area (BAWA) program which has permanently protected more than 229,000 acres of publicly accessible habitat in 16 states. This program is expanding and has identified 57 projects encompassing 36,046 acres across 15 states that are in active development for strategic acquisition. 

By permanently protecting high-quality habitat, Pheasants Forever’s acquisition strategy also provides solutions for the nation’s most complex sustainability issues including improved biodiversity, soil health, water stewardship, and rural economic development— while simultaneously prioritizing maximum impact for pheasants, quail, and associated wildlife.

“These are wild, protected places that anyone can enjoy,” Adams said. “It’s not often that you do something that changes the game overnight or in a year, but if you look at what we’ve done over many years that absolutely makes an impact.”

Click here to read the full story from the Pheasants Forever Journal

A map of Pheasants Forever public lands projects is here: Projects can also be viewed on the onX Hunt application by turning on the Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever layer under “Land and Access.”

About Pheasants Forever 

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever make up the nation's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. This community of more than 420,000 members, supporters and partners is dedicated to the protection of our uplands through habitat improvement, public access, education, and advocacy. A network of 754 local chapters spread across North America determine how 100 percent of their locally raised funds are spent — the only national conservation organization that operates through this grassroots structure. Since its creation in 1982, the organization has dedicated more than $1 billion to 580,000 habitat projects benefiting 26.5 million acres.

Media Contact
Dave Schwarz

Photo Caption: Biologists tour a Waterfowl Protection Area funded in part through Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment near Willmar.