Jim Klatt, longtime Minnesota conservation leader, dies at 71

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 20, 2013 - 5:12 PM

He pushed for years for a constitutional amendment to maintain hunting and fishing.

Jim Klatt, a driving force in helping pass an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution guaranteeing that hunting and fishing be “forever preserved,” died last week. He was 71.

Klatt, of St. Louis Park, died Tuesday of complications from an aneurysm. He was former president of the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance (MOHA) and pushed for years for the constitutional amendment to maintain hunting and fishing. That goal finally was achieved in 1998 when the amendment was approved by voters 77 percent to 23 percent, a margin that stunned even some supporters.

His group, an umbrella organization representing statewide hunting, fishing, trapping and conservation groups, raised and spent about $140,000 to promote passage.

“It was one of his proudest accomplishments,” said his son, Justin Klatt of Minneapolis.

He also was a supporter of the 2008 Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which increased the sales tax to fund outdoor-related conservation projects.

Klatt was an avid outdoorsman who also worked for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the Union Sportsman’s Alliance and was a member of many conservation groups, including Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever. In 2008, Outdoor News named him their Man of the Year.

Klatt was a strong voice for conservation in Minnesota, said Joe Duggan, vice president of corporate relations for Pheasants Forever.

“He was dedicated and diligent and intimately involved in the push for the constitutional amendments to hunt and fish and dedicated funding, two milestones that will serve this state for years to come,” Duggan said.

Gary Botzek, executive director of the Minnesota Wildlife Federation, worked with Klatt on the passage of the 1998 constitutional amendment and said he played an instrumental role. He places Klatt among Minnesota’s influential conservation leaders who have died in recent years, including Harvey Nelson, Frank Schneider and Don McMillan, a former MOHA president.

“We’re losing them faster than we can grow them, and that’s not a good thing,” Botzek said.

Klatt was born and raised in Iowa. “He spent every day, out working on the farm, or hunting or fishing or doing something outdoors,” said son Justin. “That’s where his love of outdoors came from, and why he wanted to preserve that space for people to enjoy.”

He had a career in advertising before working in the conservation arena, and enjoyed spending time at his cabin in northern Wisconsin.

Said his son: “He lived life to the fullest. He was always up at 4 or 5 a.m., and couldn’t understand why everyone else wasn’t because you could get so much done.”

The aneurysm stuck about two years ago, and he fought recurring complications since then.

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