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Former and prospective new members look to reestablish Pheasants Forever chapter

BEMIDJI — Area hunters, land preservationists and wildlife enthusiasts will meet tonight to reestablish the Beltrami County Pheasants Forever Chapter.

With a renewed interest from both former chapter members and prospective new members, organizers say the meeting will set up the charter and elect officers of the newly founded group.

Once Beltrami County Pheasants Forever is reestablished, it will be one of more than 600 chapters nationwide, and one of more than 70 chapters in Minnesota, according to the Pheasants Forever organization.

Gerald Sizer, former treasurer of the Beltrami chapter, said area members of Pheasants Forever started meeting regularly again this spring and the idea of reestablishing the chapter took spark.

"We have a lot more people interested now," said Sizer, who recalled there were only a handful of active members from that first chapter. "It was fun and it was a good way to get youth involved."

And that is just what the new chapter plans to focus on, according to Eran Sandquist, Pheasants Forever regional wildlife biologist. "One of the strongest focal points that members shared with me was preserving prairie grasslands in the state and to also promote a strong youth program," Sandquist said.

In order to promote youth becoming more involved, Brad Smith, president of the Bemidji Trap and Skeet Club, said there are plans for a possible partnership between the two groups.

"We’d (the trap and skeet club) be interested in partnering with them for a number of different things," Smith said. "My vision would be to have a trap/shoot event with the Pheasants Forever group and maybe even host their annual banquet at our facility."

As a main fundraiser, Pheasant Forever chapters usually host an annual banquet to raise funds for various local projects. And different than many organizations, nearly 100 percent of the funds raised at the banquets stay under the control of local Pheasants Forever volunteers.

As the regional wildlife biologist, Sandquist is working with Pheasants Forever members to help organize and develop the chapter, but Sandquist said whatever the Beltrami chapter does is up to its members.

Longtime hunter Ed Nynas, a former Beltrami County Pheasants Forever member, said there are many reasons he continues to support the organization’s efforts, with land preservation among the most important.

"With the need for farmland, the need for providing a habitat to them (pheasants) has grown, too," Nynas said. "We want to have habitats for people to hunt but also for pheasants to grow and live."

Recollecting his experiences with the first Beltrami chapter, Nynas said working with area youth and acquiring property to help preserve the habitats of native birds and other wildlife were major highlights of his volunteer work.

"It’s (the Pheasants Forever organization) a marvelous thing," he said. "It’s good for the community but also good for the parts of the state we are helping to maintain the habitats."