(Posted March 8, 2018)
By Christine Bryant, Staff Writer
A habitat conservation group is working to improve and maintain local pheasant and quail populations.
The local multi-county chapter of a national organization, Pheasants Forever Inc., recently formed and is comprised of individuals dedicated to conserving the popular game bird’s habitat.
“Members are a diverse group of hunters, farmers, ranchers, landowners, conservation enthusiasts and wildlife officials,” said Michael Retterer, coordinating wildlife biologist and spokesperson for Pheasants Forever. “The common thread is all want to make a difference for wildlife by conserving or creating habitat.”
Darby Plains Chapter 956 covers four counties: Madison, Clark, Champaign and Logan. The chapter will kick off with an inaugural banquet at 5:30 p.m. March 31 at the Madison County Fairgrounds in London.
In 1982, a group of pheasant hunters saw the connection between upland habitat loss and declining pheasant populations. According to Pheasants Forever’s national website, agricultural expansion, a growing population, water wars, urban sprawl, and oil and mineral exploration are all threats to the habitats of pheasants, quail and other wildlife.
Since forming, the national grassroots organization has purchased more than 187,000 acres of habitat that is permanently protected and open to public hunting and outdoor recreation. The group also has employed more than 100 wildlife biologists who work with landowners to benefit local habitats.
In 2005, the organization expanded and formed a quail division called Quail Forever. Darby Plains Chapter 956 also includes this division.
Unique among national conservation organizations, chapters of Pheasants Forever retain 100 percent decision-making control over their locally-raised funds, Retterer said.
“This allows chapter volunteers to develop wildlife habitat projects and conduct youth conservation events in their communities, while belonging to a national organization with a voice regarding state and federal conservation policy,” he said. “Locally, we plan on utilizing the funds raised for wildlife and pollinator habitat restoration and enhancement projects, youth programs and projects support.”
The group meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second Monday of every month at the Madison County Extension Office, 217 Elm St., London.
The March 31 banquet will include food, games, prizes, raffles and auctions. Registrations submitted by March 15 qualify for an early bird raffle.
Cost is $50 for a single ticket, $75 for a couple, and $15 for a youth ticket. All tickets include dinner and a membership to the organization.
For more information on the organization, go to pheasantsforever.org. For more information on the banquet, call (937) 631-1064.