Brett Reber hopes to take his local experience to the national level, as one of the newest members of the Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever national board of directors.

Brett Reber hopes to take his local experience to the national level, as one of the newest members of the Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever national board of directors.

Though the nomination itself was a slight surprise, Reber, an attorney in McPherson, was glad to see the board recognize the efforts of McPherson’s chapter and the McPherson Valley Uplands.

“I’m proud of what we’ve done locally here. It started with very little and we’ve built a great chapter that’s done a lot in the county. I hope I can use some of that at the national board and explain what we did, what doesn’t work or how to work through some of those challenges. Hopefully, I can bring some of those best practices to those 700 other chapters in the United States,” Reber said.

The uplands — a 46-acre Outdoor Education Center near Conway — is designed for youth to learn and develop outdoor skills and an appreciation for conservation. Reber sees the cooperative effort between McPherson Area Pheasants Forever and CHS Refinery-McPherson as a testament to the power of keeping organizations’ funds local.

“There’s a number of organizations that are doing a great job, but you send in your money to the national office and they do the work. Pheasants Forever is the opposite — if we raise money here, we keep it here,” Reber explained. “Membership goes to the national office, but the rest goes back into local projects. That’s unusual to do with conservation programs, since they’ll send it to where it’s needed, but this is wildly successful because people can see the fruits of their labor and where their dollars are working.”

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever recently elected Reber as a new member of the organization’s 18-member board, which meets quarterly and oversees the operations of Pheasants Forever, Inc. and Quail Forever.

Pheasants Forever was formed in 1982 to promote habitat and preservation of pheasants. Within the past few years, the organization expanded to include quail. Kansas has both species, while some areas only have one species present.

“As a habitat organization, it’s really about conservation and habitat. Every year we lose more and more national resources to urbanization and different methods of farming, so we want to protect nature and wildlife as much as possible,” Reber said. “There’s a real emphasis on the national board to work on the quail initiative, which is only a few years old, so a Kansas representative knows a little bit about both.”

The McPherson chapter of Pheasants Forever started in 1994 with a handful of members. Now, the organization has over 200 active members who focus not only on concerning populations, but preserving them by teaching younger generations about best practices.

“Since day one, our focus has been family-oriented and getting kids involved outdoors. There’s a national initiative in Pheasants Forever called ‘No Child Left Indoors’ or ‘Nature Deficit Disorder,’” Reber laughed. “If you can get kids to outdoor habitat events, it gets them excited about these projects.”

Since its creation in 1982, Pheasants Forever has spent $634 million on 502,000 habitat projects benefiting 14.1 million acres nationwide. The national board looks at potential partnerships with other conservation organizations in order to lobby for legislative decisions that meet their ultimate purpose of conserving wildlife and habitat.

“I get to go to the national group, but it’s really this group of people in McPherson working hard for 20 years and really have a passion for it,” Reber said. “I spend very little time thinking about creating habitat so we can hunt more — I like hunting, but that’s a side effect for me. I think conservation is critical, so if we don’t preserve what we have and teach young people about it, then it won’t be here.”