Here are some random observations made at the 2012 DNR round table conference held January 6-7 in St. Paul.

Governor Dayton.  Say what you will about his politics, Mark Dayton genuinely believes in the importance of Minnesota's natural resources.  It couldn't have been any clearer in his ad lib, heartfelt welcoming comments.

Commissioner Landwehr. Very bright.  Very much in charge.  And very much up against impossible odds because of the scope of the problems.  He's forced to measure success not in gains but in slowed losses.  To invasive species.  To the farm plow and drain tile. To a legislature bent on partisanship.  To a new generation that often shrugs its shoulders about participating in the outdoors.

Attendees.  Pretty much the same entrenched grey beard crowd but noticeably more women and a few more young people.  I got the feeling that many of the younger attendees were replacement DNR employees for the 130+ vets who took an early retirement offer.

Attention. Lacking.  The ubiquitous smart phone has changed the behavior of conference attendees seemingly overnight. Before, during and after presentations, scores of people are staring into their phones and exercising their thumbs.  Common courtesy vaporized into cyber space.

Ag Perspective.  Don Baloun, Minnesota State Conservationist for the National Resources Conservation Service gave the opening day keynote.  He talked about a dizzying array of funding sources available to pay farmers to conserve acres for water and wildlife.  He kept saying "if you flew in an airplane you'd see all the water..."  Meanwhile the tile is still going in the ground and the 11 million acres of wetlands we've lost in Minnesota is about to be joined by our grasslands.  His funding sources are like bandaids at a beheading.  $7-a-bushel corn is the 800-pound gorilla in this room and will continue to be the deciding factor in a producer's plans.

Wolf De-Listing.  The hottest topic at the two-day conference was the announcement that Minnesota will likely have a wolf hunting season.  Their numbers (about 2,000) have grown enough to allow them to be taken off the endangered species list.  This is evidently break-into-regular-programming news.  In fact, the DNR staged a noon-time news conference at the session.  And, of course, all the media showed up.  Unless you're among those who would like to hug a wolf or feed them bowls of arsenic, this is a non-story.  The DNR will probably allow a short, carefully controlled season allowing the killing of maybe 200 wolves.  A few hundred hunters and trappers will be interested.  Meanwhile, we put 400,000 deer hunters afield and harvest 200,000 deer.  What am I missing here?

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