DRUMMER FEATURE NOVEMBER 30, 2014
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Eran Sandquist's job is...
Finding great new home for pheasants
By Ed DuBois
As the new state coordinator for the Pheasants Forever organization in Minnesota, Eran Sandquist of South Haven gets to be involved with activities and projects all over the state. One of the most exciting and interesting projects is located in Wright County.
A Clearwater Township family that owns a Century Farm worked with Pheasants Forever to sell land that would be used for conservation purposes. Today, the public can enjoy the 604-acre Minnesota Veterans Wildlife Management Area, which is situated along the Clearwater River and includes both open areas and wooded areas.
"The Minnesota Veterans Wildlife Management Area includes some of the most quality restored native prairie in the state. It also has some 100-year-old oaks in the forest," Sandquist said.
Pheasant hunting can take place on the land this time of year, and during other seasons throughout the year, people can visit and enjoy the scenery on walks through the area.
"The name of the wildlife area honors veterans, and that is a cool aspect. I hope we can do more projects like that in Minnesota," Sandquist commented.
Outdoors in Wright County
His career with Pheasants Forever is a perfect fit for a guy who has enjoyed the outdoors all his life. The 1997 Delano High School graduate grew up hunting, fishing and camping. He expressed thanks to his parents, Eric and Janet, for opportunities to enjoy life outdoors and for their encouragement. He fondly remembers ice fishing outings after basketball practice and Saturdays in the fall on a back forty hunting pheasants. He also enjoys memories of fishing in the Crow River.
Sandquist, 36, earned a degree in Biology at St. Cloud State University, where he graduated in 2002. He was hoping to begin a career in either fisheries management or wildlife management.
He took a job as a habitat specialist with Pheasants Forever in August 2002 and worked in Stearns County. Activities included planting nesting cover, restoring prairies and carrying a drip torch to perform prescribed burns for improving habitat. He mentioned working with the Soil and Water Conservation District on private land conservation programs.
In 2003, Sandquist successfully transitioned to working as a regional representative for northern and western Minnesota, guiding Pheasants Forever chapters in regard to raising funds and using the money to help with the organization's habitat mission. Minnesota has 76 chapters, which were mostly established by county.
Outdoor loving family
Sandquist moved to South Haven in October 2005. He and his wife, Melissa, have two outdoor-loving daughters, Jaden, 8, and Ava, 4.
Melissa shares Eran's enjoyment of hunting and fishing, which she experienced fairly often while growing up in Rockford.
Melissa has accompanied Eran at Pheasants Forever events, and the experience apparently inspired her. Over the past seven years, she has been involved with Peasants Forever at the local level and is serving as a co-chair for the Wright County Pheasants Forever Banquet in March.
Eran mentioned that the Wright County Chapter will be celebrating 30 years when the March event takes place. He said $4 million in 30 years went into activities such as land acquisition, youth education and annual veterans hunts.
Eran started serving as the state coordinator at the beginning of September 2014. He said passage of the Legacy Amendment in 2008 significantly increased the work Pheasants Forever has been able to do.
"We went from about $1 million a year to between $10 million and $20 million to protect, restore and enhance wildlife habitat," he said.
The organization has been recommended for $18 million next summer, if approved by the Legislature and the governor.
"So far, they have followed the recommendations," Eran said. "We are delivering more missions than ever."
The increase in activity led to the creation of the state coordinator position.
Eran said he now has new responsibilities, but he looks at this "new chapter in my book" as a "fun and exciting challenge."
"I get to help make a difference in my home state. I have a role in all our partnerships," he commented.
Unique skill set
Some of his new responsibilities include: buying land, enhancing and restoring public land (such as wetlands and nesting areas), writing grants, helping chapters with fundraising, and helping with private land projects.
He answers to the national director of the north region, Tom Fuller.
In a news release last September, Fuller said, "Eran Sandquist brings a unique skill set to our state coordinator post having spent part of his career planting habitat atop a tractor and the other portion creating habitat though partnership building and fundraising. He's an absolute perfect fit for the Minnesota state coordinator role, and I'm excited to see his talents make us even more effective in light of the state's rapidly changing landscape."
Eran said he enjoys working with landowners who want to help the cause, and he likes assisting them as they wade through the process.
He is also interested in youth education and conservation education. He likes working on efforts to help get youth and families outdoors, as well as providing opportunities to try hunting.
The Pheasants Forever youth program is called No Child Left Indoors.
Eran has been traveling all over the state promoting programs and helping with projects. Some of the locations where particularly good work has been accomplished include Duluth, Grand Rapids and Detroit Lakes, he said.
Eran mentioned that Pheasants Forever has a unique model in which chapters keep the money raised locally and decide how it can be best used. He is ready and willing to help with those decisions and offer his advice.
He loves being involved with what the various chapters are doing, and he truly appreciates their efforts.
"Many chapters have people who are doing what I do, but they are doing it for free," Eran mentioned. "If I ever feel like complaining, I think about them."
A mere reminder about the efforts of the Pheasants Forever volunteers makes him feel great.
Right here in his home county
For an example of what people are doing in the spirit of the Pheasants Forever cause, perhaps visit the Minnesota Veterans Wildlife Management Area about three miles south of Clearwater along Highway 24.
Eran has seen some great projects all over the state, and one of the best is located right here in Wright County, the home county of the Pheasants Forever state coordinator.
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