The Minnesota Pheasants Forever State Convention was held at the Prairies Edge Casino Resort Friday and Saturday, Jan. 17 and 18. The Stearns County Chapter received multiple awards for its dedication to habitat and youth education projects.
Chapters from across the state were honored for reaching various historic habitat expenditures. The Stearns County Chapter of Pheasants Forever (SCPF) was honored for spending more than $4 million on wildlife habitat and conservation education projects. Stearns County is only the second chapter in the nation to earn this great honor.
Since the chapter’s inception in 1982, SCPF has donated more than $45,000 to Pheasants Forever Legislative Action Fund to support efforts to improve strong conservation programs within the next Federal Farm Bill. They were also pioneers in creating the Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist position. This biologist’s role is to assist landowners in designing, developing, and funding habitat improvements on private lands.
The SCPF chapter has worked on many habitat projects which have improved 9,581 acres of nesting habitat, food plots, and winter cover. Public land acquisition has also been a high priority for Stearns County, having participated in 35 land acquisitions totaling more than 4,500 acres.
In addition to habitat improvements, the chapter plays a key role in youth education, supporting multiple area youth conservation events, youth mentored hunts, and supported scholastic shooting teams.
Through his dedication and efforts over this past year, Joe Opitz of the SCPF Chapter was awarded the Minnesota Pheasants Forever Volunteer of the Year award. This award recognizes an individual who best embodies
the PF mission through their local, state, and national volunteer efforts.
Joe has served as a Stearns County chapter volunteer since 1992 and as their treasurer since 1994. In this position, he helped to oversee the chapter spending which has now exceeded
$4 million. Joe has previously been awarded the Pheasants Forever Dedication Award, and is a member of the Long-Spur Society, two of Minnesota PF’s most prestigious awards.
Joe has shown great leadership in conservation education by helping to form the chapter’s Scholastic Clay Target Program that 150 youth have participated in and also helps to lead the annual Youth Sporting Clay event. In addition, Joe has developed many
longstanding corporate relationships with area retailers that allow their chapter dollar to stretch further.
“Joe has a passion for habitat and recognizes the importance of being an active participant in seeing habitat programs hit the ground,” reported Eran Sandquist, PF’s regional wildlife biologist in Minnesota. “Joe is a big picture thi
nker who has been willing to do whatever it takes to achieve the habitat mission of PF, and we are all indebted to him for his leadership and willingness to lead the habitat charge.”
Several other SCPF chapter members received awards at the state convention as well. Jason Selvog was awarded the Dedication Award for serving on the committee for at least two years, being instrumental in the creation or continuation of the Chapter, and playing an essential role in the development of Chapter Programs.
Mark Volkmuth was awarded the Long-Spur Society Award. This award is given to chapter members who have been a vital part of the Chapter for a minimum of eight years, has attended state meetings a
s well as other state and national functions, has previously received the Dedication Award, and demonstrates a lifelong commitment to Pheasants Forever.
Pheasants Forever is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to the protection and enhancement of pheasant, quail, and other wildlife populations in North America through habitat improvement, land management, public awareness, and education. Such efforts benefit landowners and wildlife alike. Charity Navigator, America’s charity watchdog, gives PF their highest rating of 4 stars and says that PF outperforms most non-profits in America.
The Stearns County Pheasants Forever Chapter received several awards and honors from the Minnesota State PF Convention. Members are from left to right, Brad Cobb, Jason Selvog, Joe Opitz, Ralph Feld, Dave Stadther, and Ken Olson. Submitted photo.