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Public land dedicated during Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener

Despite the weather, a whole host of people, including Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, were still able to celebrate the designation of 141 acres of land as a wildlife management area Friday afternoon.

The ceremony, originally set to be held at the newly designated WMA, was instead moved to Torge’s Live because of weather.

Gov. Walz talked about the hunting opportunities his own family had when he was younger and reflected that land such as the land dedicated Friday is a boost to outdoor recreation.

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, from left, Gov. Tim Walz, DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen, Paul Worlein, Jamie Surdy of Pheasants Forever, Explore Minnesota Director John Edman and Jeff Baldus of the Austin Area Foundation pose for a picture during a land dedication ceremony Friday afternoon in Torge’s Live, part of the Governor Pheasant Hunting Opener. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“It opens up ample opportunities for families that don’t have that option,” Walz said.

The land was donated to the Austin Area Foundation by the Worlein family and Pheasants Forever is working toward purchasing the land with the hope of finalizing the purchase later this year.

The land in question is outlined by Murphy Creek on its north and east boundaries. Restoration of 81 acres, known as the upland prairie, began in May of this year with the planting of round-up ready soybeans. The remaining 60 acres is planned for a 2020 planting.

Jamie Surdy, of the Mower County Pheasants Forever chapter, said that to date the chapter has invested $2 million into habitat restoration, which includes 600 acres of farmland that has been restored to native habitat.

Speaking of this project, Surdy said that aside from restoring this land to native habitat, it will also go towards flood control.

“The benefits of this project will be over many years,” he said.

Paul Worlein was on hand representing the Worleins and he said his family was grateful for the work that’s gone into making this project happen, even on a day that was cloudy and blustery.

“For our family, this is a beautiful day,” Worlein said.

The donation of habitat such as this, goes beyond restoration of the land. It goes to the benefit of the entire state and as hunting thrives so does tourism.

The two things go side-by-side, something that Director of Explore, Minnesota John Edman highlighted. As the Governor’s Pheasant Hunt Opener began to pick up speed Friday night, Edman stressed how important land donations such as the Worlein’s are to the state as a whole.

“This is a great chance to showcase all the neat things here in southeast Minnesota,” Edman said. “It’s part of tourism. Tourism is big business in Minnesota and hunting is clearly a part of this.”

It was something that Sarah Strommen, commissioner for the Department of Natural Resources seemed to add to when she spoke.

“I think this project is a really great example of the ‘what’ do we need to do for habitat in Minnesota and the ‘how’ we do this,” she said.

As the ceremony came to a close, Walz touched on how work by the Worleins, Pheasants Forever and the Austin Area Foundation comes together to make great things.

“Everything that’s right in communities can be found right here,” Walz said. “The reason we are able to do this is because of people like Paul and the Worlein family.