Local Group Named Conservation Organization Of The Year

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In its 14 years of existence, the Mogollon Sporting Association has raised more than $400,000 to benefit wildlife populations, recreation and public outreach in the Payson area.

To honor its contributions, the Arizona Game and Fish Department bestowed the MSA with statewide recognition as the Conservation Organization of the Year.

"Last year we raised $40,000," said Ted Pettet, an MSA founder. "The money we raise stays in northern Gila County."

Game and Fish nominated individuals and organizations in 11 separate categories.

"With partners like these, we will continue to lead the nation in environmental protection efforts that will benefit our children and generations to come," said Game and Fish Commission Chairman Joe Melton.

The MSA picks up the financial slack of other agencies.

For instance, Pettet said the group purchased metal detectors to help wildlife law enforcement search for discharged bullet casings.

Every May, the group, which has about 30 members, holds its annual fund-raising banquet.

Most of the money is collected through auctions. Big-ticket items, such as firearms, attract hefty bids. Pettet said other organizations are following the MSA's lead by offering ritzy merchandise.

Many of the MSA's events offer growth opportunities for the area's youth, including the financial support of sports teams, school music programs and scholastic clubs. The group has provided funding for upgraded stage lighting, new instruments and money for student trips.

"We look at items that the school board and the administration have turned down," Pettet said.

The Annual Payson Wildlife Fair, now in its 13th year and held during the spring, turns the lakeside park into an urban paradise for budding outdoorsmen and women.

Green Valley Lake is the main draw.

The man-made wonder receives a double dose of trout for anglers young and old.

This past summer, the MSA helped the Whispering Pines area pay for and install a "guzzler" -- a self-contained water capture and storage device that provides hydration for animals.

Membership is open to residents of all ages.

For more information, contact Jack Koon at (928) 474-1662.

The MSA will receive its conservation award during a ceremony Jan. 20 at the Glendale Civic Center.

To purchase tickets, contact Jack Avey at the Arizona Game and Fish Department, (602) 789-3281.

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