AMES – At the annual Pheasants Forever state meeting held in February in Ames, Iowa, the Lee County chapter received the Habitat Excellence Award from the national Pheasants Forever office for exceeding $1.75 million in habitat and educational expenditures.
“Nationwide, only a handful of chapters have surpassed this historical mark,” said Eric Sytsma, southern Iowa Regional Biologist at Pheasants Forever. “This is a true testament of the Lee County chapter’s commitment to habitat development, our natural resources, and youth outdoor education.”
“When it comes to getting things done on the ground, there is no chapter more willing to making a difference than the Lee County Pheasants Forever chapter,” Sytsma said. “The Lee County chapter is seen as one of the leaders among Iowa Pheasants Forever chapters, with their efforts providing assistance to landowners, developing or maintain habitat, acquiring critical parcels of land that are turned over to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources or the Lee County Conservation Board to provide permanent wildlife habitat, and, more importantly, providing public hunting and fishing opportunities.”
Much of this work is done because of strong partnerships with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, USDA Farm Service Agency, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Lee County Conservation Board, and Iowa State Extension. These agencies work together to provide information on conservation practices, staff people who work in the field, and seed and equipment resources to accomplish shared goals.
The Lee County chapter has contributed to the purchase of more than 2000 acres of land that have become public hunting areas within Lee County. They have also assisted with the acquisition and/or development of habitat on another 20,000 acres of public land within the state of Iowa. In addition, the Lee County chapter assists local landowners who provide wildlife habitat with seed and limited payments on an annual basis.
Lee County PF has also supported two high school trap teams for the past 8 years, where youth ages 10 and up learn gun-handling safety and compete at a national level with other high schools across the Midwest. They are able to competitively shoot at clay targets on a statewide and national level which would be cost restrictive without the financial support the chapter provides.
In the fall of 2016, as part of Lee County Economic Development Group’s Grow Lee 2.0 venture, Lee County Pheasants Forever was the main sponsor for the Guinness Book of World Record event in Lee County for “Most people planting flower bulbs simultaneously” with 1,463 people planting about 8,000 flower bulbs in 28 minutes, most of which were school kids representing all private and public schools in Lee County. Most of the flowers planted were tulips, however, about 1,000 of the flowers are prairie blazing stars donated by Lee County Pheasants Forever as part of a pollination effort. These particular bulbs are part of a pollinator program that enhances pollination for bees, butterflies, and beetles. Pollinating insects are an essential component in global food production. About one-third of all food and beverage products need pollination.
Pheasants Forever’s main objectives are to develop, maintain, and enhance wildlife habitat and support youth conservation activities,” Sytsma said. “The first Iowa Pheasants Forever chapter was formed some 33 years ago. Since that time, all state chapters collectively have spent more than $ 65 million on habitat development. The most important fact about that statistic is that these dollars are raised and spent by local chapters.
“That’s what makes Pheasants Forever’s structure unique among all national conservation organizations — all dollars raised locally remain local and are spent on habitat projects that are most needed for that immediate area. In 2017, Iowa Pheasants Forever chapters spent more than $ 4.5 million, with the Lee County chapter a leading contributor with more than $280,000.” This level of expenditure placed the Lee County chapter at third across the nation of over 750 chapters.
Lee County Pheasants Forever is holding its spring banquet February 24th in Fort Madison, Iowa, at The Comfort Inn. Doors open at 4:30 p.m., and dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. with the auction to follow. Tickets are available on line at www.leecountypf.org or from a committee member.
The committee members of the Lee County chapter are very appreciative of the support they have received during the past 30 years. This support has allowed the chapter to pursue the goals they established when it was first organized in 1987 — to help develop and maintain local wildlife habitat, provide public hunting opportunities, and work with getting kids outdoors.
It is the hope of Lee County PF that these public areas will provide opportunities for today’s and, more importantly, tomorrow’s generation to interact with wildlife and the outdoor heritage of this region.