Russell County man hopes to inspire others with 1,700-acre gift
RUSSELL COUNTY -- With a desire to see his 1,700 acres stay together and managed as a wildlife habitat demonstration unit ,Wallace N. Weber, of Russell County, ended 2008 by donating the land to Pheasants Forever (PF) and Quail Forever (QF). It is the single largest donation in the 26-year history of the sister organizations.

Weber, a retired U.S. Army colonel, along with his sister Cheryl, Topeka, began the process of donating the land in late December. Called Dubuque Land & Cattle, the donation includes two full sections, a half section, a quarter section, and an additional 80 acres. The first half section was transferred to PF in December 2008. Upon Weber's death, the donation will be completed, and the land will be accompanied by a charitable remainder trust for management expenses. In total, the Weber donation is expected to be valued at well over $1 million.

"This donation is not about dollars or acres," Weber explained. "I've made this gift to Pheasants Forever because we share a common mission and dream of turning this land into a living unit that will inspire others to manage for wildlife in harmony with sustainable agriculture."

The mission for the land will be to implement conservation practices beneficial to wildlife while maintaining the property's agricultural and ranching operations. The land harbors a substantial pheasant population, with great potential for quail habitat improvement. Prairie chickens and whitetail and mule deer also occupy the land. A creek runs through the property, and three ponds are used by migrating waterfowl and are stocked with fish.

PF will begin managing the land immediately as a demonstration unit. In time, the organization plans to host conservation and habitat field days to illustrate "best management practices" on the property, as well as conduct natural resource agency tours, chapter events, and youth field trips. The land will remain private until Weber's death, with hunting by written permission only. Upon Weber's passing, PF intends to open the land to public hunting.

The idea of making the donation first came to the Webers last year after reading about the Baxter Family gift to PF. Bill Baxter, Sr., a Nebraska Game & Parks Commission biologist, passed away in February of 2007. Before his passing, Baxter and his son Bill Jr. worked out the details of leaving their 320-acre Nebraska family farm to PF. The Baxter's story appeared last year in the Pheasants Forever Journal of Upland Conservation and in the PF eNewsletter, On The Wing.

Weber hopes his story will inspire others. "I read about the Baxters, and I realized Pheasants Forever could help me achieve the dreams I had for turning this property into a legacy for others," he said. "I reminisced about being a 13-year-old kid again who lived to hunt, trap, and fish on this ground. I believe this land can create similar memories for other youngsters for decades, or forever."

Wallace was born in 1943 and grew up in the house he lives in today. He spent 31 years in the U.S. Army and served over nine years of active duty, including service as a flight surgeon with the Assault Battalion of the 82nd Aviation Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division during Operation Desert Storm in the First Gulf War. He founded Heartland Dermatology Center in Hays in 1977 and continued in the American Board Certified practice of dermatology, dermatopathology, and dermatologic surgery in central and northwest Kansas until selling the practice in 2005. He's a lifelong outdoorsman who has been farming and ranching on his property since 1987.

"Wallace Weber may not be a name you recognized before today, but it's a name that will live forever through his generosity, vision, and dedication to the land," said Howard Vincent, PF/QF President & CEO. "Dubuque Land & Cattle will be a fitting wildlife habitat legacy."

The Weber donation was made through PF's first-ever national fundraising effort, the Grassroots Conservation Campaign. To learn more about making a charitable donation to Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, phone PF/QF's vice president of development, David Bue, at 218-340-5519, or email dbue@pheasantsforever.org.