Monthly magazines work weeks ahead deciding how to allocate space, including for letters to the editor. As I write this, we have just received several letters about February’s cover story, “Whose Legacy Is This?,” and my opinion column, “Foxes in Henhouses.” We planned for a half-page’s worth of letters this issue, so others will run in April’s edition.
Our story found a need for greater oversight and accountability for how $7 billion in tax dollars will be spent through Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment. It also found the largest amount of funding to private organizations thus far has gone to Pheasants Forever. Our cover image and my column focused on this last point, and in my column I questioned whether this was a good idea.
If my organization were highlighted in such a way, I would want to be able to share its perspective with the same audience as soon as possible. Because we published the story and column to foster dialogue on a subject that wasn’t receiving enough public examination and discussion, we are devoting space usually reserved for the Editor’s Note to Pheasants Forever’s letter to the editor. Again, more letters will run next month, and I want to thank everyone for writing in and expressing their viewpoints.
—Dale Kurschner, Editor in Chief
The errors and substantive omissions within the article on Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment and the companion editorial paint a misleading picture of the Legacy Amendment’s impact and Pheasants Forever’s role. We expected and deserve better from a publication that prides itself on fair and balanced reporting.
The flaws within both the article and editorial column are too numerous to articulate in the short space allowed, so we have provided them to the editor in chief separately. However, there is room to detail a few examples here.
The cover image, backhanded reference to “Pheasantgate” in the column and the “Foxes in Henhouses” headline suggest scandal and impropriety, yet exhaustive research and dozens of interviews unearthed nothing of the sort.
Pheasants Forever has performed its work with guidance from state agencies, followed the letter of the law, operated with transparency and been audited through this entire process. We are proud of the track record our organization has achieved in the nonprofit community, and the magazine unnecessarily questioned that record in the interests of adding drama to a flawed story premise.
Multiple references to Legacy grants being used for “pheasants” also is a substantial misrepresentation. The land acquired through Legacy grants facilitated by Pheasants Forever has been for the purpose of protecting or restoring prairies and/or wetlands. If reporters had visited one of these projects, they would have seen the rabbits, deer and pheasants mentioned in the editorial, plus waterfowl, butterflies, pollinators, turkeys and endangered species, as well as cleaner water and reduced flooding and soil erosion.
All of this land is turned over to either the state or federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—not “private interests” as stated several times in the article and editorial. [Editor’s note: The story did state the land was turned over to government agencies.] Contrary to the editorial’s incredibly offensive reference to a “white man’s sport,” these lands belong to and are available for use by all Minnesotans, regardless of race, gender or economic status.
Lastly, the column and article, in their criticism of the more than $40 million in grants facilitated by Pheasants Forever, failed to state that one of the main reasons we were chosen for these grants was our ability to provide an additional $11 million in matching funds through member and sponsor donations. This point was made several times to the reporters but ignored because it didn’t fit their story’s premise. We’d be eager to hear of the “already existing, accountable resources” mentioned in the editorial that have demonstrated the ability to add 25 percent to the public’s investment.
I’m very passionate about the positive benefits the Legacy Amendment funds are providing all Minnesotans, and I believe spending state money on clean water, the environment and natural resources is a wise long-term investment. It’s clear that the authors don’t hold those values as dear, and I respect that. When they pose the question, “Whose legacy is it?” the answer is future generations of Minnesotans who will be able to enjoy sky-blue waters, prairies, wetlands and forests as a result of the Legacy Amendment funds.
Howard K. Vincent
President and chief executive officer
Pheasants Forever, St. Paul