The Prairie Pothole Chapter of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association was formed by a group of outdoors men concerned about the loss of waterfowl habitat in the Prairie Pothole Region of Minnesota. Organized in 1983, this group of enthusiastic volunteers set out to improve the habitat and educate the public about the importance of wetlands and the surrounding upland habitat. Immediately this group, working in conjunction with local Minnesota DNR biologists, began the hands on work of improving the ducks plight. Early projects included placing loafing logs in wildlife management areas throughout Kandyohi County, the draw down of a slough along the Northern edge of the county, and testifying at local 'Ditch Meetings.'
These traditions of education and hands on work continue today. The Prairie Pothole Chapter placed and maintains the wood duck nesting structures on Robbins Island in Willmar, Minnesota, cleaning the boxes each spring and tracking nesting success. the chapter has continued to fund projects throughout the area, enhancing and restoring waterfowl habitat. The Minnesota Waterfowl Association signs that dot the county landscape testify to the hard work and monies that the Chapter has spent. Prairie Pothole Chapter has continued to educate the public on wetland issues, either by sponsoring a habitat day each spring were families can assemble wood duck nest structures and learn about wetland habitat or by partnering with the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center to develop and staff outdoor education programming. While Chapter members have donated thousands of hours over the years working on projects and educating the public, very little of this work would have been accomplished without the support of the community.
The Prairie Pothole Chapter raises this support and money through the Prairie Pothole Day event held at Stoney Ridge Farm outside New London, MN. From the beginning the Prairie Pothole Chapter recognized that it's mission was larger than raising money for our state conservation organizations.
"Not that a Banquet isn't a good idea but we tried to think of a fundraiser that would involve the family, that would be fun to put on and also make money for the Waterfowl Association...We felt, especially, in the Willmar area, we just have enough banquets."
Roger Strand, Swift County Monitor, September 12, 1984
The Prairie Pothole Day event has become a regional outdoor tradition growing in size and stature. While the number of visitors now routinely hovers around 4,000 and the monies raised routinely approaches fifty thousand dollars the basic nature of the event has changed little. The barn has been renovated and now hosts displays by the Minnesota DNR an the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Members of the Wood Duck Society, local decoy carvers, and naturalist man booths that dot the trail along the lake. Out back shooters can take advantage of the sporting clays course, the archery trail, or the black powder range. Visitors still have a chance to watch the dogs, whether in the timed Slough Scoot or the more demanding Retriever Challenge. Also present are numerous vendors offering outdoor related merchandise. The size of the event may have changed but the basic nature of Prairie Pothole Day remains intact.
The Prairie Pothole Chapter of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association, started in 1983, has grown into the mission outlined by the founding members - to raise money that would be used to educate the public and fund local wetland habitat conservation and restoration projects.