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Monday, May 27th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Pheasants Forever celebrates successes at Minnesota state convention

Tyler Zimmerman, left, recipient of Pheasants Forever's Above and Beyond award, poses with PF/ QF president and CEO Marilyn Vetter. (Photos courtesy of PF)

Willmar, Minn. — More than 200 Pheasants Forever chapter leaders gathered in Willmar, Minn., Jan. 19-20, to celebrate the past year’s successes and to look to the future of conservation in Minnesota.

Supporters gathered for two evening events and a full day of seminars at the Willmar Conference Center. Minnesota DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen and Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever President and CEO Marilyn Vetter were keynote speakers.

“There are few things better than being in a room filled with volunteers who are passionate about conservation. These folks are the absolute backbone of everything we do, and the energy they bring to our mission as volunteers is contagious,” said Chance Steward, senior regional representative.

The leaders represent about 70 Pheasants Forever chapters throughout Minnesota. The organization operates on a unique model in which spending decisions for all funds raised are made by local chapter volunteers. PF was founded in St. Paul in 1982.

Pheasants Forever volunteers and leaders posed for a group photo at the recent state convention. (Photo courtesy of PF)

Rice County received the Chapter of the Year award. Leaders were honored for their work in supporting land acquisitions statewide, hosting a successful Hands-On Habitat event, and for adopting every state wildlife management area in their county.

The Volunteer of the Year award was given to Tri County chapter president Mark Dean. Nominated by chapter volunteers, Dean was lauded for juggling many roles within the chapter while still managing to keep things fun. The chapter represents southeastern Minnesota and holds its annual banquet in Rochester.

Kandiyohi County chapter president Kevin Ochsendorf received the Bill Sandy Making a Difference award. The award is presented to a volunteer who goes above and beyond the call of duty to further the organization’s mission. Ochsendorf was honored for successfully coordinating the chapter’s many diverse programs, making it a leader nationally.


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The Spirit Lake (Iowa) Protective Association received the Partnership of the Year award. The association was instrumental in acquiring the Howard K. Vincent Waterfowl Production Area, donating $250,000, and supporting the project through completion. The project met the group mission by positively impacting water quality in the area and providing public recreational benefits.

The Pelican River chapter received the Mission Maker award for their efforts in new and varied events, including a youth turkey hunt, a Women and Wine and Wild Game night, and planning for an upcoming Pheasants Forever 5K, the first in the organization’s history.

The Brood Booster award is given to an agency, non-government organization, or partner organization that contributed to the mission of Pheasants Forever. This year’s winner was the McLeod County Habitat Conservation Society. The society was cited for its assistance in acquiring a 200-plus acre wildlife area in Jackson County and other important conservation work.

New this year, the Next Generation of Forever award was given to Chippewa County. The award recognizes the trailblazers of the next generation.

The Carver County chapter was awarded with the Focus on Forever award during the banquet. Down to just a few board members not long ago, the chapter is once again thriving, becoming relevant in its community, and making a positive impact for conservation.

DNR Land Acquisition Coordinator Jeff Tillma was presented the Wildlife Professional of the Year by public lands manager Sabin Adams. Tillma was cited for his commitment to conservation and his assistance in navigating the complex acquisition process behind public lands.

Pheasants Forever Minnesota Wetland Restoration Specialist Tyler Zimmerman received the Above and Beyond Award. The award is given to an employee of the organization who demonstrates a commitment to Pheasants Forever beyond the minimum job requirements.

Chapters throughout the state were recognized for their total cumulative contributions with the Conservation Excellence award. Topping the list were Lyon County ($11 million), Jackson County ($10 million), and Clay County ($9 million).

During Friday night’s event, volunteers nominated by local chapters were presented with Dedication Awards.

“Every year, we’re amazed when we look back at the work our volunteers have done. It’s so good to get together and celebrate those accomplishments. Not only that, but every year I hear chapter leaders talking, and they’re always looking to the future, trying to find new ways to grow their organizations. That’s what is really inspiring about this group,” said Will Clayton, PF senior regional representative.

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