By Nick Simonson
It has truly been an honor to serve Lyon County Pheasants Forever as President these last six years. In that time, I have had the chance to direct a group of leaders from all walks of life who have cared as much, if not more than I, about the outdoors, conservation, the hunting heritage and the next generation we will pass those things on to. As I reflected on this time over the past few days, one statement kept coming to mind, over and over again. As I left a CTL shoot night, or drove by a WMA, or set my boots into the running water of the Redwood River, the words came to me simply, repeatedly and resoundingly: “We are Forever.”
Every day, every month, in hunting season and out of it, we changed Lyon County and the surrounding area for the better in a way that will bear the fruits of our efforts Forever. We pulled buried pieces of barn metal from under a foot of dirt and coiled rusted barbwire for removal from a future WMA site. We watched young hunters take their first shots in the field, helped build four clay target teams consisting of 160-plus area youth, where just a few years ago there were none, and we taught kids to create their own lures, follow nature’s cues and catch fish with their homemade flies, jigs and spinners. In the process, tying their lives and enjoyment to the grasses, the water, the soils and the habitat of this region. They may not have realized it then, and maybe not even now, but we’ve bettered their lives, Forever.
In my time as President of Lyon County Pheasants Forever (LCPF), we accomplished these things and so many more that will continue on. We set aside over 1,100 acres of land for wildlife habitat, public access and preservation of the hunting heritage for those who don’t have the luxury of their own acres, or for those who come to visit and see what Southwest Minnesota is all about. We united various sportsman’s clubs and branches of conservation groups across this region in an effort to honor the legacy of locally-raised and renowned wildlife artist James Meger. We have stood strong in the face of those in St. Paul and Washington D.C. who would attempt to undermine the strong conservation ethic of this area and undo the years of work we have put in with a penstroke or a yea vote, and let them know with a resounding voice that sportsmen, conservationists and environmentalists vote as well and decide their employment each November and will continue to do so, Forever.
Partnering with agencies like area Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Department of Natural Resources and the Fish and Wildlife Service, we have restored and set aside prairie pothole sloughs for waterfowl habitat, water retention, and flood control. We have worked tirelessly with conservation-minded landowners to improve habitat, prevent siltation and chemical runoff into the region’s watersheds, providing habitat for wildlife beyond pheasants, including butterflies, bees and other pollinators that are so desperately needed to continue the agricultural cycle each year, but are dwindling in number with each passing season.
We have found solutions to problems, provided ways to make conservation affordable and even profitable to landowners and have combated the misinformation of those who see only dollar signs in the dirt as the bottom line. Standing up and sacrificing hunting access and even what may have been considered friendships as part of our conservation ideals with absolutely no regrets, knowing that the long-term well being of our society and our natural resources is far more important than being able to pass by a posted sign through the concealment of our membership in the Habitat Organization. Those sacrifices were well worth it, and the bewilderment in their eyes and voices in reaction to our steadiness and commitment, will resonate with them Forever.
When you look at all these things we have accomplished together as volunteers – sacrificing our time, our own hunting hours, and sweat equity for the greater good – in this blink of an eye of six years, you shouldn’t see just flushing pheasants. You should see the next generation, and the one after that, growing up never having to look back and say “I wish they would have had trapshooting in high school when I was a kid” or “I wish I had a chance to go hunting with someone” or “I hope I have a place to take my kids in the field” or “I didn’t think our drinking water would end up like Flint’s.”
They won’t say those things, because we did these things. We took a stand, we made the effort, and together, we made a difference that changed not only landscapes, but also lives, and protected them all, Forever.
But six years is not “Forever.” The price for the longevity of these incredible victories and opportunities is vigilance. The need in the coming years of Forever will be for the continued stomp of boots on the ground, of fundraising efforts, of writing and calling legislators, of reaching across the fence to advance habitat, sustain wildlife, improve society, protect resources and
increase opportunities for the next generation to experience it all. It is my firm belief that you will help continue this tradition, you will take your spot on the front lines of conservation and be the continuation of Forever, whether you’ve sat around the old laminate table on the first Wednesday of each month with me over these past six years or are only now just thinking of getting involved.
“We” does not happen without you. “We” does not happen without an incredible group of leaders getting together, leveraging a total greater than the sum of its parts, and finding a way, even when things look bleakest.
You have to be part of this. It is my parting hope that you will be, and the “we” of LCPF and the nationwide organization continues on the rising crest of these accomplishments and builds into so many more in the coming Forever.
Thank you for the incredible opportunities you have allowed me to be part of and play a leadership role in. I will treasure my time in Lyon County and the surrounding area as some of my fondest memories, and will continue to return to hunt the places we worked so hard to protect and preserve, and the ones that you will most certainly add to the legacy we will continue.
Sincerely yours, Forever,
Nick Simonson, Past President