Pheasants Forever, DNR Dedicate 300-Acre WMA in Honor of Mel Roehrl

   05.08.14

Pheasants Forever (PF), the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and conservation partners recently dedicated a 303-acre Stearns County property in honor of longtime Pheasants Forever volunteer Mel Roehrl. Purchased with the help of contributions to Pheasants Forever’s Build a Wildlife Area program and a grant from Minnesota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund, the Mel Roehrl Wildlife Management Area is now permanently conserved habitat for wildlife and open to public hunting and outdoor recreation.

A Melrose resident and founding member of the Stearns County Pheasants Forever chapter, Roehrl, at 87-years-old, still serves the chapter as a committee member, working to protect and enhance upland habitat. Forming more than three decades ago, the Stearns County Pheasants Forever chapter was the ninth Pheasants Forever chapter created in the country. Since then, the chapter has acquired 34 new and/or additions to state Wildlife Management Areas and federal Waterfowl Production Areas, totaling more than 4,700 acres.

“When it comes to conservation in central Minnesota, Mel is a household name,” said Eran Sandquist, Pheasants Forever’s regional representative for northern Minnesota. “The chapter he helped start is recognized as one of the most productive in the nation and one of only two Pheasants Forever chapters to have spent more than $4 million on the organization’s wildlife habitat mission.”

Consisting of a mixture of grasslands and wetlands, the property, located southwest of Padua, is home to a variety of wildlife including pheasants, ducks and deer. Roehrl is particularly pleased the wildlife area bearing his name will be there for future generations of hunters. “If your kids hunt, you don’t have to hunt for your kids,” Roehrl told the dedication ceremony audience.

“This new WMA shows just how important it is to have local groups like Pheasants Forever chapters and others involved in setting aside land for public use,” said Fred Bengtson, DNR area wildlife manager in Sauk Rapids. “Mel helped speak for this land decades ago, and has since 1983 helped continue important conservation work through his local Pheasants Forever chapter.”

In addition to the Build a Wildlife Area program – a donor-supported program that works to maximize funding for the creation of public wildlife areas through matching grants – and Minnesota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund – created by the voter-approved Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment – major project funding for the Mel Roehrl Wildlife Management Area was provided by a North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant and the Reinvest in Minnesota Critical Habitat Match Fund. The project was also made possible by willing sellers who donated a remainder of the property value. Sandquist, Bengtson and volunteers with the Stearns County Pheasants Forever chapter helped secure the funding for the project.

“Mel’s legacy in Minnesota was well established before this dedication ceremony, but his legacy is now an indelible part of the landscape which he worked so hard to protect,” says Joe Duggan, Pheasants Forever’s vice president of corporate relations. “This is the type of project that we’ll look back on years from now and be very thankful we were able to conserve it, and in the process, honor one of Minnesota’s distinguished conservationists.”

Additional project partners include: the Buckentine family, Tri-County Pheasants Forever, Jackson County Pheasants Forever, Lyon County Pheasants Forever, Mower County Pheasants Forever, South Central Minn. Pheasants Forever, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA) Central Minn. Chapter, Todd County Pheasants Forever, Padua Conservation Club, Green Grove Rod and Gun Club, Steve Thompson Memorial, MDHA Hides for Habitat Fund, the MDHA Habitat Committee, the St. Cloud Granite Rotary and the Stearns County Pheasants Forever Chapter.

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