Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.

July 5, 1999

DNR budget cuts affect our area, too

Budget cuts in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Section of Wildlife almost always carry bad news for our state's and area's wildlife lands and wildlife.

In the DNR's most recent wave of budget cuts, which were announced last week, bad news for wildlife and those who enjoy it was the only news.

Due to a $600,000 shortfall in the budget, the Section of Wildlife, imposed a hiring freeze, cancelled the 2000 moose hunting season, and wildlife lands will not be managed as well as they have been.

There will be less controlled burning and noxious weed control. A wild pheasant release and transplant program in west central Minnesota, where pheasant populations were greatly reduced by the severe winters of the mid-'90s, was cancelled.

And worst of all, a reduced number of staff members will not have the time or the resources to maintain and bolster public support for wildlife and wildlife conservation like it has been done in the past.

For example, just a few years ago, it was very easy to get in contact with and get information from one of our area's wildlife managers. Be it the manager covering Wright County, or the manager covering McLeod and part of Sibley Counties, they were easy to reach and always willing to dig into a new wildlife conservation project.

They would often participate in local meetings and efforts, and more often than not take a leadership role in organizing various conservation and wildlife habitat improvement projects.

Today, and at least for the next few years, those managers must cover and are responsible for a much larger area.

Four or five years ago when the area wildlife manager covering the McLeod County area, Paul Bremer, retired, his position was not filled and has never been filled. The area wildlife manager covering Nicollet County and areas farther south and west had to pick up Paul's area because of budget problems at that time.

Also, the manager covering the Wright County area now is managing an area that extends almost to Brainerd. When those changes occurred, getting in touch with a wildlife manager or staffer became almost impossible.

They have become and are so stretched out that showing up at a local meeting or taking a leadership role in a local conservation project is basically impossible.

If you're wondering what area wildlife managers do, they are responsible for managing state-owned public lands, like wildlife management areas, within their district.

They plant the trees, conduct prescribed burns, develop wetlands, and are wildlife conservation experts and leaders.

Some people may disagree, but qualified DNR staff people are vitally important to our resources. They are often the leaders in large collaborative efforts that benefit wildlife and our quality of life. Without that leadership in local efforts, wildlife in our area will be negatively affected.

It's simple - fewer dollars equals less staff and less wildlife.

Outdoor notes

  • The DNR announced last week the 1999 waterfowl hunting season in Minnesota will be very similar to last year's. Also, mallard numbers in the state have dropped slightly. But, the overall duck population is very good and above 10-year averages.
  • Plan your fall hunting trips now.
  • The 1999 Minnesota crow hunting season opened July 1. The season closes Nov. 1.
  • Fish deeper for sunfish. Sunfish have moved off the spawning beds on most lakes and the best bet for catching them at this time is to fish just off the outside weedlines in 10 or so feet of water with small leeches.
  • The walleye bite on Mille Lacs continues to be one of the best in years, and with anglers still nabbing fish at a good pace many are saying this year's bite will be better than 1992's.

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