MARSHALL - It was a great event, Gov. Mark Dayton said, but one he couldn't take credit for.
A big part of the work that made this weekend's Governor's Pheasant Opener possible came from the Marshall area community - especially the idea of making it a rotating event.
"You picked us," Dayton told a crowded room of hunting enthusiasts at a public banquet Friday night.
Photo by Deb Gau
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, left, Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr, center, and Lyon County Pheasants Forever President Nick Simonson share a moment during Friday evening’s land dedication at the Rolling Hills/Clifton Wildlife Management Area.
With that kind of public commitment, Dayton and other public officials said, the Governor's Pheasant Opener would become a state tradition.
At the banquet at Southwest Minnesota State University, event organizers announced next year's hunt will take place in Madelia.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr also read an announcement proclaiming Friday Prairie Protection, Restoration and Management Day.
"This is a big day in Minnesota," Landwehr said.
Speakers at the banquet included Dayton and U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson.
Peterson said the Governor's Opener would be a chance to showcase the great hunting opportunities available in southwest Minnesota.
"We need to let people know they don't have to go to South Dakota," Peterson said.
Dayton agreed, adding that pheasant hunting "is a great Minnesota tradition. It's ridiculous to let South Dakota one-up us on this."
Conservation was also a highlighted topic Friday. Minnesota needs to preserve grassland habitat in order to keep pheasant populations stable.
"We know that if we have the habitat, the pheasants will come along," Landwehr said.
Peterson said private landowners and the state will each have an important role to play in that task, especially with planned reductions to the Conservation Reserve Program.
"If we can maintain (CRP) at 25 million acres, it will be OK," partly because the funding saved by the CRP reduction will help to preserve Wildlife Management Areas, Peterson said.
But pheasant numbers can't be maintained through WMA land alone.
At a dedication ceremony for the Clifton and Rolling Hills Wildlife Management Area earlier in the day, Dayton and Landwehr praised the efforts of area residents like Steve Snyder and members of Lyon County Pheasants Forever to preserve pheasant habitat.
About 362 acres of land was purchased with the help of Legacy Amendment funds to form the WMA in 2011.
"It's something that will last for generations," Dayton said.