Volunteers turn land into pheasant haven

The next time Lynn and Rhonda Tessier take a stroll on a walking trail around their property, the couple will likely pause and inspect the growth of the 6,600 trees recently planted on four acres.

The next time Lynn and Rhonda Tessier take a stroll on a walking trail around their property, the couple will likely pause and inspect the growth of the 6,600 trees recently planted on four acres.

The couple who live some 35 km west of Red Deer along the Medicine River invited the Central Alberta Chapter of Pheasants Forever Canada and its army of volunteers to plant trees in an effort to “return the land to nature.” The previous owner farmed the land, and most recently the four-acre section was used as a hay field. The Tessiers bought the 30-acre property about six years ago and had always wanted to return sections of their land to mixed forest and provide a natural habitat for wildlife.

“It wasn’t really in my opinion good farm land,” said Lynn, a semi-retired engineer.

“I think it is far more valuable as nature preserve type of land for wildlife. Since I am not farming it anyway, I felt it was a much better use of that land than it being non-productive.”

On May 7 and 8, Pheasants Forever and its volunteers, including the Red Deer Woodchucks, the local Junior Forest Wardens club, planted the trees of various varieties on the property. For many years, the national organization has worked with landowners to conserve and restore habitat for pheasants and other upland wildlife through various initiatives including habitat improvements and other programs.

Chapter president Doug Rumsey said in 10 years the local Pheasants Forever has planted more than 200,000 trees within a 64 km radius of Red Deer. Every year in the spring, volunteers plant trees and shrubbery between three and five properties.

The land typically has few trees like aspen or willow that do not keep wildlife in the area. Pheasants Forever will plant anything that grows berries or will supply good feed to the upland birds like pheasants or grouse. When the trees get big enough, the landowner or Pheasants Forever will purchase pheasants and release them in the area.

“Hopefully they will stay around there,” said Rumsey. “Or it encourages natural birds like Hungarian partridges to go in and stay in that area because they need the same three things as humans. They need protection and they need water and they need feed trees.”

Trees were also planted on properties near Rimbey, Blackfalds and Benalto last weekend. There is no cost to landowners.

The chapter earns its budget through various fundraisers. The next casino is July 2 and 3 at the Jackpot Casino in Red Deer.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com