By Renee Tomala
Unbeknownst to many, Pheasants Forever (PF) operates under a unique local model that allows for an even bigger impact to be made for our wildlife and lands. That model puts our grassroots efforts on a pedestal, and by “grassroots” I am referring to our local chapters in small and large towns alike across the country, and not all in prime pheasant or quail territory, either. North Dakota is home to 25 chapters on the national roster that retain complete control over the funds they work hard to raise, with only the membership dollars garnered going “back” to keep the organizational lights on. This local model is unique in the non-profit conservation world. So, the question is: does it work?
My answer is this: in leaps and bounds, it sure does! Our volunteers are not only strongholds within their local chapter, but also within their local communities, meaning they add boots-on-the-ground opportunities that bolster our organization’s efforts. They add more quality habitat and folks in the field while strengthening our collective conservation voice. Chapters can deploy the programs and grants created by PF staff at an incredible scale. They are ordering Milkweed in the Classroom for their elementary schools, utilizing the Pollinator Habitat Outreach Program to engage kids and teachers (and the adults back at home) firsthand in pollinator awareness and conservation, and they’re taking advantage of grants for Women on the Wing and learn-to-shoot and hunt events. PF staff have the training and resources to help chapters accomplish their goals, whether that be habitat, outreach, or advocacy; and then those chapters create habitat programs that work for them or to host annual outreach events on their own, so staff can then place their focus on bringing that goodness to another community.
This grassroots model exists, and thrives, solely because of two things: volunteers that put their shoulders behind it and membership dollars that keep this conservation machine running. PF chapters are dynamic because of this model and their impact can be broken down into three levels: local, state, and national.
Locally, they are supporting their towns by patronizing local businesses for banquet merchandise, firearms, catering, and much more. They are engaging their community in conservation, shooting, and hunting. They are sponsoring hunters safety courses, trap shooting teams, and creating quality habitat and public access attracting more hunters, and hunter dollars, to the area. At the state level they are supporting North Dakota’s PF field team financially and promoting their work by word-of-mouth, mailing flyers, partnering to host outreach and landowner events, and by providing referrals. On the national scale, they are strengthening the advocacy work that PF does all the way from Capitol Hill to individual state capitols through the Legislative Action Fund, and enabling more outreach programs to be created, along with grants, for use by chapters across the country through the No Child Left Indoors program. That is three times the impact!
It is a strong team, PF staff and volunteers. Together we leverage dollars for the greatest mileage in mission delivery. Together we get more people’s hands in the soil to plant habitat they can watch grow and become home to many wildlife species. Together we give more people a chance to learn the safe and ethical ways of hunting, highlighting all the reasons why we hunt, and all the ways to fall in love with the sport. Together we connect with more farmers, ranchers and landowners willing to install conservation practices and habitat on their land, all while helping to improve their bottom line and support rural North Dakota. Together we show even more folks they have a home within PF, adding more diversity in the field, more caring voices for conservation, and more license buyers to help fund wildlife conservation. Together we safely introduce new audiences to target leagues and hunting, building their confidence and knowledge. Together we bring awareness of conservation needs, wildlife, and pollinators to more communities with the goal of instilling our passion, love, and need for a healthy sustainable outdoor lifestyle in more people.
Together is a beautiful thing that delivers a lot of mission. My blaze orange hat is tipped to all our chapter volunteers and every member of PF for making it possible.
Interested in being a part of our together? Join PF today.
Renee Tomala is a Dakota Edge Outdoors contributing writer and Pheasants Forever’s North Dakota Sr. Regional Representative.
Featured Photo: Local chapters of Pheasants Forever retain the funds raised for grassroots work in their areas, improving habitat and engaging new hunters through events and mentored programs. DEO Photo by NDPF.