Published March 12, 2010, 12:00 AM

Local Pheasants Forever chapter celebrates No. 1 ranking

WORTHINGTON — The Nobles County Pheasants Forever Chapter has a lot to celebrate when it gathers for its annual banquet March 26 in Worthington.

By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — The Nobles County Pheasants Forever Chapter has a lot to celebrate when it gathers for its annual banquet March 26 in Worthington.

Not only has the chapter purchased three new parcels of land for habitat development in the last year, it was recognized as the No. 1 Chapter in the nation based on dollars invested in acquisitions — more than $1.4 million in the last fiscal year. The ranking topped more than 730 other chapters across the country.

Scott Rall, Nobles County Pheasants Forever (PF) president, said the ranking would not have been possible without the support of local individuals and businesses. Based on the money the chapter earns through activities like its annual banquet, Rall said they secure grants and other matching dollars to spend on habitat development in the county.

Today, more than 2,000 acres in Nobles County are open for public hunting, bird watching and nature walks because of the purchases PF has made. All of the acquisitions are signed as Pheasant Run parcels, with the latest soon to bear signs of Pheasant Run 24, 25 and 26.

The new parcels include two 40-acre parcels that are adjoining in Section 9 of Ransom Township, and an 80-acre parcel in Section 35 of Bigelow Township.

“The Ransom Township land is a standalone, while the one in Bigelow Township ties together eight other Pheasants Forever land acquisitions,” said Rall.

That more properties are clustered together is a benefit for wildlife, he added.

“Wildlife does better in habitat complexes, so adding to existing complexes benefits more wildlife than standalone parcels of equal size,” said Rall.

“One of the reasons the complexes are much more successful is that the predators have a harder time finding nests and attacking wildlife when it’s in a big area,” said Les Johnson, PF board member.

Even the new acquisitions in Ransom Township will create a larger cluster for habitat. The land joins 700 acres of privately-owned habitat acres within a three mile area.

All of the land purchased by PF has been considered marginal in terms of productivity for row crops, and has been in areas prioritized by the chapter.

“The (Bigelow Township) acquisition is in the wellhead protection area, which allows Pheasants Forever to work with other partners, including the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District and Worthington Public Utilities,” said Rall. “The acquisitions in Ransom Township are the first of what is hoped to be the beginning of a complex in that part of the county.”

While Nobles County PF has been successful in land acquisitions for public use, Rall said that more than 95 percent of all land in Nobles County remains in private ownership.

“Winters such as this one prove just how vital wildlife areas and wildlife complexes are,” he said. “It would be hard to imagine what the county’s wildlife population would look like without them.”

Rall said the local chapter continually seeks to invest in more property throughout the county. Pheasant Run parcels are scattered from north of Wilmont to east of Bigelow, and have become a destination for many out-of-area hunters because of the amount and quality of the habitat.

“That benefits tourism, recreation and many other forms of business,” said Rall, who was recently named PF’s Minnesota Volunteer of the Year for his service to the organization.

The ability to invest in land acquisitions is made possible by monies raised during the annual Nobles County Pheasants Forever banquet. This year’s event will be March 26, at the Long Branch in Worthington. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., with the meal to be served at 7 p.m.

The event will include several raffles, a silent and live auction and a brief program that will include comments by local conservation officer Gary Nordseth.

There are 10 guns included in this year’s raffle, while Jerry Johnson of Worthington has donated a custom-made knife for the auction. There will also be some hand-knapped arrow points made by Jeff Oberloh, and several prints have been donated for the silent auction.

“Our grand raffle gun is a Traditions 12-guage over-under, Remington model 700, VMS.204-caliber,” said Rall.

Tickets for the banquet are available from any Nobles County Pheasants Forever Committee member, at the Rall Financial office, 515 S. Shore Dr., in Worthington, or by calling Scott Rall at 360-6027.

Tags: