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Doug Smith, Star Tribune
August 14, 2005 ONOT0814

Pheasants Forever, the Minnesota-based national conservation organization dedicated to ringnecks, is adding quail to its menu.

Quail Forever -- a separate division -- will focus on improving and creating quail habitat in states with quail populations. It is being modeled after the successful Pheasants Forever (PF) model, meaning local chapters will be formed. They will send membership dollars to the national office but will keep all money they raise for local habitat projects.

"We're excited," said Howard Vincent, PF's president and CEO. "We anticipate starting 50 chapters in the next 12 months, and hope to have 10,000 to 12,000 members."

If that happens, Quail Forever members will get their own full-color magazine, just as PF members receive now, Vincent said.

He said startup costs are nominal and he doesn't anticipate adding any staff until Quail Forever is up and running. Then more field biologists could be added.

"This is a natural extension of what we're doing," Vincent said. "We're a habitat organization."

PF has chapters in 28 states. Some of those states have quail and pheasants, meaning they could end up with both Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever chapters. But another 20 southern and western states out of the pheasant range have quail, and those areas can benefit from a group to promote quail habitat, Vincent said.

"This will allow us to have a national view of wildlife across the lower 48," he said. It should add to the group's political clout, especially in Washington, where federal farm policy plays a key role in wildlife habitat, Vincent said.

Pheasants Forever will retain that name, and Quail Forever will be a division in the PF organization, Vincent said. Quail Forever will be managed by existing PF national staff, with oversight by the PF board of directors.

The group will compete for members with Quail Unlimited, a national group based in South Carolina. Vincent said PF had conversations about merging with Quail Unlimited, "but they chose not to go in that direction."

Vermillion River trout

Considered the region's premier coldwater fishery, Dakota County's Vermillion River is being proposed for an experimental catch-and-release regulation to preserve the trophy brown trout in its waters.

Under the proposal, anglers would be required to release all brown trout caught in portions of the Vermillion designated as trout stream, starting in 2006. Anglers could continue to harvest rainbow trout, which are stocked by the DNR at Rambling River Park in Farmington each spring.

An open house to gather input on the proposal will be held Sept. 6 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Rambling River Center in Farmington. Written comments, addressed to DNR Fisheries, 1200 Warner Road, St. Paul, Minn., 55106, will be accepted through Sept. 20.

Build a WMA

The third Build a Wildlife Area campaign kicked off over the weekend at Game Fair. The program is a joint effort by Pheasants Forever, Outdoor News and Game Fair to raise money to purchase land for inclusion in the state's wildlife management area system. In 2003, the campaign acquired 318 acres in Morrison County, which became the Mud Lake WMA. In 2004, the campaign dedicated the 400-acre Hunter's Paradise WMA in Traverse County. The partnership will be seeking donations from individuals and corporations to buy more land for a WMA. All donations are tripled through matching grants from the DNR and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Lake Vermilion regs

Lake Vermilion apparently will be the latest major Minnesota lake to get new, more restrictive walleye fishing regulations.

The DNR is proposing a 17-to 26-inch protected slot for walleye with a bag limit of four fish. The goal is to reduce the walleye harvest to or below the safe harvest level. Based on creel survey information, the walleye harvest in 2002 and 2003 averaged 88,200 pounds, well above the annual safe harvest level of 65,000 pounds.

Four other lakes in the region also are proposed for a 17- to 26-inch protected walleye slot: Farm, Garden, South Farm and the White Iron chain, all near Ely. The goal is to increase walleye numbers.

Public meetings are Sept. 19, from 4 to 7 p.m., at the Fall Lake Town Hall, east of Ely; Sept. 21, from 4 to 8 p.m., at the DNR office in Tower; and Sept. 22, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the DNR Central Office in St. Paul. Comments also can be mailed to Tower Area Fisheries, 650 Hwy 169, Tower, Minn., 55790; e-mailed to [email protected] or phoned in at 218-753-2580, ext. 222. The comment period ends Oct. 3.
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