Governor helps dedicate Meger wildlife area
This was one Friday the 13th that turned out to be anything but bad luck.On a near-perfect October afternoon that included a sun-splashed sky and a large crowd, the late Jim Meger was honored as a part of the Governor's Pheasant Hunting Opener festivities.
Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith were among the throngs of people in attendance.
Meger, a Minneota native, was a renowned wildlife artist and avid outdoorsman before he succumbed to cancer in 2011 at age 69.
Two parcels of land approximately four miles north of Taunton were set aside by the Pheasants Forever in Meger's name.
That area is now referred to as the James Meger Wildlife Management Area.
A huge memorial stone was unveiled by his Meger’s widow Laurene and their daughter Elise, both of the Twin Cities area, as well as Jim’s sister Mary Beredimas and her son Bill, who both came from Colorado to take part.
“It was spectacular,” Laurene Meger said while turning to look back at the 10-foot by six-foot monument.
“Jim would have been overwhelmed. He would also have been so humbled and so surprised by this honor. Tomorrow (Oct. 14) is the anniversary of his memorial service at Fort Snelling.”
Elise Meger echoed her mother’s sentiments.
“It really was absolutely spectacular,” she said. “What an honor.”
The brief ceremony was held before over 200 outdoor enthusiasts that included members of Pheasants Forever, Department of Natural Resources, and Explore Minnesota, as well as friends and family of Meger, media members and other interested onlookers. Some of the avid hunters even brought along their dogs to the ceremony.
Lt. Gov. Smith spoke about how she noticed the faces of Meger’s family when they unveiled the monument.
“I love coming to these types of events,” she said.
“It was great to see the family members transfixed by the monument and this wonderful piece of land.”
Ron Prorok of the Lyon County Pheasants Forever was the emcee for the land dedication ceremony. Speakers also included Troy Dale, the Minnesota DNR Assistant Wildlife Manager; John Erdman, Director of Explore Minnesota Tourism; Tom Landwehr, Commissioner of the Minnesota DNR; Lt. Gov. Smith and Gov. Dayton.
Meger won the Minnesota Duck Stamp contest in 1980 with a painting of a canvasback duck, which were a favorite of his.
Dave Schad, the Deputy Commissioner of the DNR, was such an admirer of Meger and his talent that he got a tattoo of a canvasback duck on his left bicep years ago in honor of his friend.
“I met him several years ago,” Schad said. “He was a great guy and did so many great things for wildlife.”
Dayton, who took part in the Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener awarded to Marshall this fall, opened his brief talk by remarking how it’s easy to be humbled while participating in various events with his Lt. Governor.
“Last year at the pheasant hunting opener, I had a bird in my sights and then all of a sudden it stopped flying,” he began. “The lieutenant governor shot my bird. She also outfishes me for the fishing opener every year, too.”
Dayton then praised Meger and his family, as well as the work done by those involved with this land dedication ceremony.
“What a great way to honor your husband and father,” he said, looking back at Meger’s widow and daughter seated behind him.
“It took an extraordinary team effort to make this possible. I couldn’t believe when I heard they had to remove 24 tons of trash to beautify this site. It will now be a treasure for years to come.”
Landwehr met Meger while he was a college student and Meger was at a Wildlife Arts Festival in downtown Minneapolis.
“I was taken aback by his distinctive technique. He painted from the heart,” said Landwehr.
“He was a down to earth guy. I introduced myself and he didn’t treat me like a snotty college kid like most of the others there did.”
Erdman explained that tourism is a big part of this type of land dedication because people come to Minnesota to enjoy our outdoor activities.
“People come to Minnesota because of all our natural resources,” he explained.
“They come here for our rivers, lakes and wildlife. It takes community efforts to preserve places like this. People will thank you today, tomorrow and for years to come for doing this.”
The idea for a wildlife management area in Meger's name was the brainstorm of Al Dale, a board member with Lyon County Pheasants Forever who was in attendance at the dedication.
Dale had a vision about having a wildlife area named after Meger because of the many things he did in regards to preservation of wildlife.
“I was lying in bed one night and couldn’t sleep,” he explained. “I started thinking of ways we could honor Jim because he had done so much, not just for pheasants, but all wildlife, through his work.”
And Dale presented his idea to the Lyon County Pheasants Forever board for approval, which they readily agreed upon. Dale wanted the wildlife area to be within a 30-mile radius of Minneota where Meger grew up and also where he often hunted.
A sub-committee, referred to as the Lyon County Pheasants Forever Wildlife Management Area Committee, was formed to further advance the project.
The DNR and Pheasants Forever chapters of Lyon and Yellow Medicine Counties then worked together in search of an area that could be purchased for the Meger Wildlife Management Area.
Through Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment, which provides funding for projects fostering clean water, lands and air, Pheasants Forever was able to purchase the two tracts of land approximately 10 miles from Minneota, totaling 315 acres.
“We had to clear over 24 tons of concrete, plastic, glass, rocks and even some car parts,” said Troy Dale, referring to the Pheasants Forever’s clean-up process around the old gravel pit on the south side of this land parcel.
“That one-day event included over 20 volunteers.”
Pheasants Forever, in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, spearheaded restoring and enhancing the Wildlife Management Area. Throughout 2016 and 2017, a number of projects were carried out on the WMA to benefit wildlife.
Conversion of marginal acres on the property to native grassland species has provided not only nesting cover for upland game, but also a wide variety of native flowers to sustain local populations of pollinators, such as honeybees and monarch butterflies.
The existing tree cover has been improved to benefit local deer and turkey populations, and to provide winter cover for a variety of songbirds and other wildlife species.
These grassland enhancements will also protect the natural creek from runoff and siltation, improving water quality downstream.