Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr on Friday detailed conservation priorities and challenges his department has identified for 2012.
Landwehr spoke at the agency's annual round table meetings, held this year in St. Paul. He followed Gov. Mark Dayton to the podium Friday morning to open the gathering.
Dayton had urged the hundreds of sportsmen and sportswomen who had traveled to St. Paul from throughout the state to work together to respond to threats facing the state's environment and resources.
Citing an African proverb, the governor said, "If you want to go fast, travel alone. If you want to go far, travel together.''
Before yielding the stage to Landwehr, Dayton urged DNR employees to listen to those in attendance. Then the governor gave out his home phone number, welcoming complaints.
Landwehr began his presentation by listing accomplishments and challenges that defined the DNR in 2011, including not only forest fires and massive blowdowns, but receipt of record mining royalties and acquisition of a new state recreation area. Then he detailed conservation hurdles that lie ahead, including:
• An acknowledgement that the state's fight against aquatic invasive species will only intensify, as the DNR seeks from the Legislature expanded authorities to stop the spread of zebra mussels and perhaps carp and other critters.
• An emphasis on prairie/grassland conservation as a new federal Farm Bill is developed in Washington. In 2012, Minnesota will lose still more Conservation Reserve Program acres, Landwehr said, adding, "We are facing a head wind like we've never faced before. We need to get aggressive about putting grass back on the landscape.''
• The inevitability that the Game and Fish Fund will go broke without a hunting and fishing license fee increase.
• The possibility that the Legislature will remove from DNR authority management of 2.5 million acres of School Trust Land, with possible impacts to hunters and others who now recreate on these properties.
• Execution of a state wolf management plan that recognizes the species "is an asset to the state.'' "We take this conditional opportunity (to manage the wolf) seriously and we want to demonstrate to Minnesotans and the federal government that we can do it right.''
The annual DNR round table is attended by invited conservation leaders.