Zeroing in on land stewardship

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Clay County Conservation Director Will Horsley was recently recognized with the Habitat Stewardship Award by Polaris and Pheasants Forever. Horsley and his staff have worked to expand outdoor recreational grounds available to the public and to ensure the quality of habitat sources for wildlife in Clay County.
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Conservation staff, Horsley honored with habitat award

Clay County Conservation Director Will Horsley and his staff have been working to expand access to outdoor recreational grounds and ensure quality habitat sources for wildlife in the county and their efforts are being noticed. Polaris and Pheasants Forever recently awarded Horsley a Habitat Stewardship Award for what he and his staff have accomplished after just one year under his leadership.

"These plans might be composed on paper in the office, but it is the boots on the ground and the sweat equity that park's staff and field staffers do that make us successful," Horsley said. "I will accept this award, but it will be on behalf of the conservation board and our entire staff. Our field staff combined, we have well over a hundred years of work experience in habitat improvement and that is why we are successful."

"This award is a recognition of Will's achievements," said Kevin Maassen, Clay County Conservation Board chief ranger and Clay County Pheasants Forever vice president. "... The people who support Pheasants Forever see the value in what we are trying to accomplish by protecting areas and enhancing them. You have these communities where you get insect, wildlife and plant diversity. That is what goes into habitat. That is what is important about being a steward. That is the message we would like to send out there."

Under Horsley's leadership, the conservation board has opened the 412-acre "Heissel Addition" to the Kindlespire Complex north of Sioux Rapids, secured a new facility which will be known as the Oneota Environmental Education Center, added equipment to better facilitate maintenance of habitat grounds and has been awarded a $261,385 Resource Enhancement and Protection grant to acquire property.

"Those (REAP) funds will go directly to the property acquisition of 169 acres down by Peterson," Horsley said. "That is really a great project. That ties into an overall, large-scale complex between Buena Vista County Conservation Board as well as the Clay County Conservation Board. What we are trying to do is create large scale habitat. It is one thing for us to have a park of 200 acres, but when we can tie that into 2,000 acres, we are really benefitting wildlife and providing additional recreational opportunities."

Horsley explained the importance of expanding public lands which he said stimulates the local economy by bringing in outdoor enthusiasts from outside the region.

"I believe our next step is to provide the highest quality of outdoor recreation and education to the local populous of Clay County," Horsley said. "We are big on quality habitat which would be food, cover, water, space, time and predation management. With these tools and these additional properties we are acquiring, that is our focus."

"Realistically, you are going to live some place nice to go to see nice things and to get outdoors," Maassen said. "People take vacations to go out to mountains because of the scenic views and the wild areas. We just have that here on a smaller scale."

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