By Ken Bailey

More than 140 Pheasants Forever Canada (PFC) donors, members and supporters gathered near Calgary in early September to celebrate the Call of the Uplands fundraising campaign.

The festivities kicked off with the 18th annual Director’s Invitational Shoot, with 20 squads of five shooters competing for prizes and bragging rights. Each of the 100 participants paid a $500 entry fee for the privilege of testing their shooting skills in what is always a fun and relaxing atmosphere.

An outdoor banquet followed, providing an opportunity to recognize and appreciate all who contributed to the campaign’s success. Along with those who competed in the shoot, all PFC major donors were invited. On what turned out to be a beautiful, sunny evening, attendees enjoyed cocktails and cigars followed by a five-course catered meal.

All major donors to the campaign were recognized, including 21 Canadian Patrons who pledged a minimum of $10K each, and six Gold Patrons, who each pledged $25K or more. As a wonderful finale to the celebratory portion of the evening, three new donors agreed to step up as Canadian Patrons.

Among the event attendees were Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and the province’s Minister of Environment and Parks, Jason Nixon. They formally announced the government’s provision of a $256,200 grant to PFC Calgary as seed funding for a three-year project that will bring awareness to the importance of maintaining natural habitat in roadside ditches and right-of-ways. Trespass farming, an illegal practice where producers plant crops beyond their property lines, has resulted in the loss of hundreds of miles of roadside cover that provides critical habitat for upland birds and numerous other wildlife species.

The awareness campaign will bring focus to the societal benefits of maintaining healthy, natural roadside ditches. Beyond the benefits to pheasants and other birds, naturally-vegetated right-of-ways provide flood and drought attenuation, nutrient filtration, erosion control, carbon sequestration and broader biodiversity values, including to at-risk pollinators.

PFC will be meeting with 14 rural municipalities over the term of the project and educating thousands of rural landowners about the greater public benefits of roadside ditch conservation.