Habitat & Conservation  |  06/15/2023

Pheasants Forever chapters and the Hands-On Habitat effort


On a picture-perfect June morning near Nerstrand, Minnesota, volunteers gathered to remove several miles of rusted, tangled barbed-wire fence

Written by Dave Schwarz, Photos by Aaron Black-Schmidt

No more tripping, no hiding places for invasives, no more injured dogs.

The work of the more than 40 volunteers centered on Koester Prairie, part of the Prairie Creek Wildlife Management area in Rice County, south of the Twin Cities metro.

Pheasants Forever chapter leadership and other community volunteers have been pitching in for years to improve wildlife habitat areas throughout the country. Those efforts were formalized with Hands-On Habitat, a one-day event held in conjunction with Earth Day in 2022. More than 90 events were held nationwide. The effort was such a success that the program was expanded to a month-long focus this year.


On June 9, Pheasants Forever volunteers were joined by more than 20 Minneapolis-based employees of Deloitte, a multinational professional services network. The effort was part of Deloitte’s Impact Day, an annual event that connects employees with more than 1,000 volunteer opportunities with nonprofits across the country.

Fifth-generation landowner Craig Koester greeted the volunteers before they set out to work. “I am thrilled that you are all here. I can’t tell you what it’s like to say we have 40 people coming out to do volunteer habitat work. This blows me away, it’s just wonderful to have that kind of involvement. You don’t know how much that means,” Koester said.

Koester’s family initially sold land for the WMA in 2013. A 138-acre addition will be dedicated June 20. In all, the area comprises almost 500 acres, including several areas of native prairie and oak savannah.


Many Pheasants Forever chapters use the Hands-On Habitat effort to dovetail with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Adopt a Wildlife Management Area program. 

The Nobles County Pheasants Forever committee has adopted every WMA in their county, 45 areas in all. Volunteers from several chapters, including the Metro Area Pheasants Forever chapter, joined forces with them on a June Saturday to improve conditions in three of those areas.


Volunteers completed sign work, fence removal, invasive tree removal and general trash pickup in those three WMAs. They removed nearly four miles of fencing.

“It’s just a great chance for everybody to come together and see how amazing these areas are, and then to have the opportunity to make them even better,” Nobles County chapter president Scott Rall said.

More information on the DNR’s Adopt-A-WMA program can be found here. Details of upcoming Pheasants Forever events near you can be found here.

Dave Schwarz is the Pheasants Forever Minnesota Outreach Coordinator