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Stearns County PF named Chapter of the Year

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 03/28/2013 8:59 PM

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ST. CLOUD, Minn. — The Stearns County Pheasants Forever chapter is celebrating.

Minnesota Pheasants Forever has named it the Chapter of the Year and recognized two SCPF members: Charlie Opitz received the Dedication Award and Ralph Feld was inducted into PF's Long Spur Society.

The chapter was also recognized for spending more than $3 million on habitat and conservation expenditures since the chapter was formed in 1983. Stearns County is only the third chapter in the nation to earn the honor. Since it formed, SCPF and partners have purchased 33 land parcels accounting for almost 4,200 acres that is protected and open to public hunting and outdoor recreation.

Their successful efforts are the result of volunteers and conservation partners.

"Without their support, none of this would be possible," said Stearns PF president Steve Sellnow.

The chapter, in a partnership with Xcel Energy, takes youth to a game farm where they release pheasants, teach hunting safety and ethics, and dog obedience.

The chapter works with the Albany Sportsmen's Club for a youth sporting clay fun shoot.

"We've had a number of kids who've come back from one year to the next to take part in the event," he said. "You get to work with those kids and they become like a part of your family."

Those events are important, said Brad Cobb, SCPF public relations director.

"People are leaving our small towns and moving into urban settings," he said. "Even St. Cloud is becoming an urban setting. That's why to bring these kids to an event like the game farm or the clay shoot is a way for them to experience the outdoors."

The chapter works closely with farmers and agencies.

"Their goals are in line with ours," said Stearns County SWCD administrator Dennis Fuchs.

The SWCD looks at impaired waters and natural vegetative areas. Both rural areas and urban developments are included in the plan. Through SCPF's activities, people become aware of the issues.

"Just getting the people aware of what the outdoors is and the importance of the habitat aligns nice with our concerns in the water management plan," he said.

In the early 2000s, the SCPF worked with the SWCD to develop a Farm Bill Biologist Program. Cobb credits Fuchs' leadership in establishing the program. Through the program, the biologist informs farmers about conservation programs that fit for their operations.

Since its inception in Stearns County, 37 states now have farm bill biologists. There are around 105 biologists in all.

The Stearns County Pheasants Forever Club has more than 900 members.