Tom Landwehr, 55, of Shoreview, was named Thursday by Gov. Mark Dayton as his choice to head the Department of Natural Resources.
A top manager at The Nature Conservancy in the Twin Cities, Landwehr terminated his lobbying designation on Wednesday.
The announcement followed weeks of backstage debating and lobbying, not only by sporting interests — most of whom favored Landwehr for the post — but by timber and mining interests, their lobbyists and representatives in the Legislature.
Landwehr sought the post, providing, he said recently, he could put his own stamp on the department and select the people he wants to serve with him.
Landwehr is generally liked within the DNR and the conservation community.
"We supported him all along, although we were concerned that Dayton took so long to make a choice,'' said Garry Leaf, executive director of SportsmenForChange.com.
Others in the running included state Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, the choice of some lobbyists and legislators in northern Minnesota and northwest Minnesota. Skoe, a rice farmer who has no conservation management experience, was seen by these backers as friendly to logging and mining industries, which are important to the north's economy.
But Skoe's selection by Dayton, or anyone seen as a "placeholder'' for special interests other than the general welfare of the state's lands, waters and forests, would have produced an uproar in the conservation community.
Dayton had campaigned specifically targeting hunters' and anglers' votes, and was preferred by most hunters and anglers who had no other specific political leanings. They believed him to be the most likely candidate for governor who would promote conservation, and especially represent the interests of sportsmen.
Dayton is himself a hunter and angler. As a boy he hunted ducks with his family on Heron Lake in southwest Minnesota, and he still fishes at his family's cabin on Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota.
Landwehr likely will face a tough political climate as DNR leader. Not only will certain legislators at times be hostile to the department's interests, tight budgets will force the state's new conservation boss to further consolidate the agency, and perhaps attempt to significantly overhaul it, in combination with the Board of Water and Soil Resources and the Pollution Control Agency.
Landwehr likely will keep an earlier scheduled appointment to be in Brooklyn Center this afternoon to review with about 150 others the progress of game, fish and wildlife projects funded by the Legacy Amendment.
Then candidate now governor Mark Dayton during a debate at Game Fair in August:
"I grew up hunting and fishing, I went down to Heron Lake near Windom, with my father my brother, started out in a duck blind with newspapers wrapped around my legs as a windblock and a BB gun at about age 6. And I didn’t hit many ducks with a BB gun, I must confess, but I did a lot better when I graduated to a 12-gauge shotgun. I've been fishing all my life up on Lake Vermillion, at my grandfather’s cabin. And I just want everyone to know that if I am governor the sportsmen and women of this state are gonna have a friend in the governor’s office. I will veto any legislative attempts to usurp the authority of the Lessard-Sams Council. I will work closely with the hunting, angling and conservation groups to select a strong supporter of your interests as the commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources. I will appoint members to the Lessard-Sams Council who represent all of Minnesota geographically. I think it’s ridiculous that there’s not a single member of the Lessard-Sams Council in the northern 200 miles of the state of Minnesota. And I will veto any legislative attempt such as Representative Emmer supported last year, co-sponsored in fact, to repeal the Legacy Amendment, which was passed by a vote of almost 60 percent of the Minnesotans in 2008 who voted on that amendment as an overwhelming support. And I will say to the legislators, starting with attempts like Representative Emmer’s to repeal that legislation, that government interference in the rule of the people will not be tolerated if I’m governor.''