|A sinkhole underneath an old water control structure resulted in this new one being built, a situation that is less likely to occur without a license fee increase.|
The last thing Assistant Glenwood Area Wildlife Manager Richard Olsen wants to do is focus on the trees rather than the forest.
Planning ahead and anticipating the needs of wildlife, habitat and outdoors users on the 2 million acres his work area encompasses pays more dividends than reacting to the moment. Unfortunately, Olsen doesn't see too many options down the road if legislators fail to approve a license fee increase.
"As more demands are placed upon fewer staff, many things will suffer as we become more reactionary to immediate problems and issues at the expense of effective season-long planning," says Olsen.
In some ways, Olsen and his staff are already at that point. They pride themselves on quality work but spend a higher percentage of time dealing with problems and less time developing habitat, working on shallow lakes projects and working with partners on a variety of projects.
There already are casualties. Annual planned prescribed burning undertakings are declining as the area scrambles to find the help it needs to safely accomplish even the most simple and routine burns. Additionally, important information about wildlife populations will be lacking as predator surveys, August roadside counts and prairie chicken monitoring are not completed.
"In my experience with the DNR and within the wildlife field, people who work for the DNR are passionate about their jobs and the wildlife and environmental resources they protect and manage – and it shows," says Olsen. "These folks are very dedicated to wildlife management, often spending countless volunteer hours to accomplish their work and their own money and time to continue learning."
As such, the area still tries to do what it can, regardless of the resources and available staff. But at some point, tasks will not get done. The specific duties that will fall by the wayside are often difficult to predict, but time-consuming or expensive projects likely will be the first to go.
Take for example a new sedan structure that needed to be replaced to aid in water management activities. If not for a huge sinkhole that formed and created an unsafe situation, the Glenwood area likely would not have gotten the funding to replace the structure. Staff now can manage water levels safely, both inside and outside the structure.
Olsen remains concerned, though, that if money and resources are not available, the area's ability to manage water could be significantly reduced. Even when funds are cobbled together to address a problem, the underlying issues may still remain.
"Other than empty chairs and slowly disappearing personnel, this is what you get," says Olsen. "Doing more with less can only take you so far for so long."
The bottom line?
Without a license fee increase, Glenwood area staff will have to focus even more on immediate problems at the expense of habitat development, shallow lakes and partnerships with other conservation partners.
The Minnesota DNR's Glenwood Wildlife Area includes more than 2 million acres of land and lakes in Pope, Douglas, Grant, Stevens and Traverse counties, providing excellent hunting and trapping opportunities in West-Central Minnesota for a wide array of species including deer, turkey, pheasant, waterfowl, ruffed grouse, doves and furbearers. We manage wildlife habitat on state Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs); provide technical guidance and advice for private lands wildlife habitat; and provide hunting and outdoor recreational opportunities on public lands that we administer.