LaSalle County Pheasants Forever
Chapter #177 - History
In 1982, Dennis Andersen, Outdoor Editor for St. Paul Post Dispatch, started Pheasant Forever in Minnesota. The organization was founded to reverse the decline in upland game birds by changing farm practices, educating the public, and developing and maintaining proper habitat for nesting. This message was quickly adopted by surrounding states. Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois Pheasant Forever chapters were formed in many parts of these states.
A group of concerned farmers, conservationists, and hunters in LaSalle County; Jim Cavalini, Tony Harcar, Mick Rowe, John McCoy, Tim Wright and Bill Olson, met and later attended a DNR meeting regarding habitat where they discussed food plots and nesting cover. In addition, they discussed forming a Pheasants Forever chapter. After contacting National Headquarters in Minnesota, they met with a Pheasants Forever representative. That meeting on September 17, 1987 was the beginning of the LaSalle County Chapter of Pheasants Forever, the 177th chapter chartered in the nation and the ninth chapter in Illinois.
Through their efforts, the LaSalle County Pheasants Forever Chapter began having fundraising banquets in March 1988, which led them to become one of the more active chapters in the nation. First President, Mick Rowe, coordinated the first banquet held at Koolies Banquet Hall in Ottawa, Illinois. Forty-two people attended the banquet and the chapter raised approximately $750. They purchased a seeder, gave out grass seed and sorghum to area farmers for the purposes of planting food plots and providing nesting cover.
In 1991, the Chapter received the “Most Outstanding Chapter” award from Pheasants Forever. In 1992, the chapter purchased a Great Plains drill with money received from the Pheasant stamp fund and used the drill to plant grass seed throughout the county working with farmers and the LaSalle County Soil & Water office.
Due to an increase in attendance, the banquet was moved to Pitsticks Pavilion. Each year as membership increased, so did planting efforts. This increased the number of trees, food plots, and habitat nesting cover available to pheasants in La Salle County. In 1998, the chapter was presented with an award for raising $100,000 for Habitat, and again in 2000, for raising $250,000 for Habitat projects in LaSalle County. In 2003, the chapter received an award at the state Pheasants Forever meeting for “Most Habitat Planted.”
The chapter works with DNR to co-sponsor hunter safety courses for young people interested in hunting. The Chapter also sponsors youth mentor hunts. In addition to youth activities, the Chapter also sponsors teachers to attend the Aldo Leopold Facilitators Workshop held annually in Wisconsin Dells. In 1997, the Chapter received the Leopold Award in recognition for supporting the Leopold Education Program.
Through out the years, the Chapter acquired addition equipment to assist members in planting trees, food plots, and nesting cover, and to maintain valuable habitat ground. To date, the chapter has a Great Plains Drill, Tree Planter, Seeder and equipment to use for controlled burns. We have sent members to be certified in conducting controlled burns. Funds to purchase equipment come from grants from the Illinois State Pheasant Stamp Fund and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
In 2006 our chapter provided the initial funding for a Habitat Specialist who will work with our partner agencies and assist landowners in taking advantage of the wide array of federal and state programs. This position creates an opportunity for the already-busy landowners to hire a specialist with time, equipment, and expertise to begin habitat development programs. Our Chapter also received a grant from the Pheasant Stamp Fund to purchase an ATV mounted drill that will handle a wide variety of seeds for farmettes and small land parcels.
These accomplishments were made possible through the work of dedicated volunteers who believe in land conservation, and by maintaining partnerships with groups that share the same interest and dedication. LaSalle County Pheasants Forever has partnerships with the following groups:
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
US Fish & Wildlife Service
LaSalle County Soil & Water District
LaSalle County Farm Bureau
LaSalle County Sheriffs Department
Aldo Leopold Foundation
Our Chapter has had many dedicated individuals who have volunteered their services for banquet work and who hold leadership positions in the Chapter. It is their dedication to the preservation and conservation of LaSalle County’s wildlife habitat that makes this chapter so successful. Habitat is essential to the existence of countless species of wildlife and upland game birds, which of course includes the beautiful pheasant.
1987-1989 Mike Rowe
1990-1991 John Garrity
1992-1993 John Rose
1994-1996 Frank Kovacevich
1997-2000 Steve Hendrikson
2001-2002 Don Fransen
2003-2005 Bob McLaughlin
2006 Jim Benham
2007 Jeff Grubar