"It's in Honor of Dad..."
By J. Francis Duggan
The square mile of land doesn't look like much right now-a nap of sorghum holding down the sand and waiting for another merciful pass from the irrigation pivot-but Rob Peterson sees it as much more. He sees the prairie it once was and the prairie it will become again.
Rob sees the land as the fulfillment of a promise he made to his late father as he lay dying of cancer. When his father, a successful businessman, said his son would soon receive an inheritance, the son already had a plan for the money. "We're going to buy property and donate property in your name," Rob told his father.
Through a legacy partnership with Pheasants Forever, Rob made a substantial contribution to the organization's Grassroots Conservation Campaign. He has donated the 640-acre section of land and has provided Pheasants Forever with financial resources, through his estate plan, for long-term habitat management.
As part of his comprehensive estate plan, Rob will continue to manage and enjoy the property throughout his lifetime. Furthermore, the legacy partnership with Pheasants Forever will honor his father and ensure that the land will be a lasting legacy for future generations. "Habitat is my vision, because I just realized if we don't have the habitat, the sport is going to dry up," Rob says. "If we don't have the habitat, we can't ensure there will be an opportunity for young people to hunt 20, 30, 40 years from now."
Learning to Hunt, Fish and So Much More
Rob's inspiration and desire to give back comes directly from his father, Robert Peterson Sr. The elder Peterson grew up on a farm near Aitkin, Minnesota, not far from Mille Lacs Lake. He loved to fish and hunt, and he carried his passion for the outdoors his entire life. It was a passion he shared with the two daughters and son that he and his wife, Doraine, raised in their Minneapolis home.
Some of young Rob's earliest memories involve piling on layers of wool and heading out to the woods on his grandparents' farm to hunt deer on opening day by his father's side. "We had a lot of time to be together," Rob says. "It was more like spending time with me in the outdoors-not hunting deer. I don't even remember shooting a deer. That wasn't a big deal to him; it was just the experience of being with my dad."
Rob's father also loved to fish for walleye, so the "other opening day" always found the father and son in a boat on Mille Lacs. Rob grew closer to his father on these trips. He not only learned how to shoot a rifle and hook a minnow, but he also uncovered life's most important lessons by having his father as a teacher. "He was very outgoing, very friendly, completely at ease meeting people," Rob says. "He was generous beyond comparison. He was extremely, extremely generous with what he felt the Lord had blessed him with."
In 2008, his father bought him his first Pheasants Forever membership. Rob's overwhelming passion and appreciation for PF has grown over the years and is shown through his major gift to the organization and his role as habitat co-chairman for his local chapter.
Turning an Inheritance Into a Memorial for Dad
When Rob's father died in 2010, Rob wasted no time turning his inheritance into land and now a gift, valued at over $1 million, that will provide habitat and hunting into the future. He bought the Kansas ground because it was close to a farm where he had bird hunted for years.
Rob says his wife, Suzanne, deserves a great deal of credit because she fully supported the decision to make the gift. He also credited Pheasants Forever's Farm Bill biologist program for providing expert guidance with the grassland restoration on the property through the federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), as well as PF Development Officer Jordan Martincich for helping execute the gift through the organization's legacy partnership program.
"Rob's father had a passion for the outdoors and the legacy partnership formed with Pheasants Forever means the Peterson family values and traditions will continue forever," Jordan says. "We hope others join the Peterson family in their vision of protecting wildlife habitat forevermore."
Rob is optimistic that with hard work and timely rains, the land will soon produce dividends of habitat and ringnecks. He also looks forward to one day seeing a sign on the property that carries his father's name. "It's in honor of Dad, because through him I fell in love with the outdoors."