A 625-acre tract of land acquired by the Meeker County Pheasants Forever chapter will be dedicated as a state wildlife management area on Sept. 7.
The local Pheasants Forever group spearheaded the five-year project that led to purchasing the $2.1 million property just southwest of Kimball, previously owned by Peter and Paul Heid. The land acquisition funds came from the state’s Clean Water and Land Legacy Amendment, and North American Wetlands Conservation, each contributing $650,000 to the chapter. An additional $110,000 was raised for habitat improvement, parking areas, fencing, signage and more.
“The Heid brothers were interested in selling it to us because of what our mission is, (which) is to build wildlife habitat,” said Jeff Miller, Pheasants Forever member. “So they wanted the land to remain and be used by the public, and so that’s why they chose us.”
This particular land, which will be known as the Kingston Wildlife Management Area, will be the largest wildlife area in Meeker County, Miller said. It will be open to the public for hunting pheasants, deer, turkey, ducks or rabbits, or to simply enjoy the wildlife experience.
“There will be planting of native grasses. We call that habitat improvement and native prairie restoration,” Miller said. “There will be work done to supplement naturally what’s there. Pheasants need wildflowers. When a mama pheasant has baby pheasants, the chicks live on insects initially, and insects are attracted to wildflowers. So we go in and plant wildflowers in these areas, which enhances the habitat for raising chicks.”
“The other thing they need is cover, which is on that property, to roost in, to spend the winter in, because they don’t go south,” said Paula Miller, Jeff’s wife.
Before the chapter could turn the land over to the Department of Natural Resources for it to become a wildlife management area, the DNR required the Pheasants Forever chapter complete a few developments on their own. This was done because the DNR didn’t have the money for it, according to Jeff Miller.
“The state said, ‘Sure, we’ll take the land because it’s beautiful wildlife property, but before we do it, this, this and this has to be done and we can’t afford to do it. So we want Pheasants Forever to pay for it.’ And that’s what our organization does. With the help of all these partners, we put together the $110,000.”
At the upcoming dedication, invitees will be introduced to the wildlife management area with a lunch of pulled pork sandwiches. The gathering will recognize the contributing partners, Miller said. Members of the Minnesota Legislature, county and township representatives, and the organizations that contributed are invited, Miller said.
“The big question is, ‘Why are we doing what we do? Why are we buying up this property? Why are we taking it off the agricultural scene?’” Jeff said. “The answer is: ‘Because if we don’t, then there won’t be any of it.’ And your grandchildren and my great-grandchildren or whatever, won’t be able to drive down the road and see a ring-necked pheasant, or a white-tailed deer, or a cottontail bunny, because there won’t be any habitat to support them. And I think that’d be a shame.”