The Department of Natural Resources scrambled Tuesday to arrange public meetings in the Twin Cities after a trio of state legislators ripped the agency for failing to accommodate interested metro-area residents in an upcoming review of the first-ever statewide deer management plan.
The draft plan was announced Monday. Simultaneously, the DNR scheduled 35 public meetings around the state for hunters, foresters, ecologists, farmers and others to ask questions and make comments. None of those meetings was scheduled in Hennepin or Ramsey counties.
“If we are truly committed to engaging more people in Minnesota’s outdoor traditions and reaching out to people of color, women and younger generations, we must do better than scheduling nearly all of the meetings outside of urban and suburban areas,” the three legislators said in a news release.
Reps. Rick Hansen (South St. Paul), Jamie Becker-Finn (Roseville) and Fue Lee (Minneapolis), all DFLers, said more deer hunting licenses are issued in Hennepin County than anywhere in the state. The slate of meetings proposed Monday by the DNR “ignores a significant number of hunters,” they said.
Leslie McInenly, DNR wildlife populations and programs manager, said public comment meetings on the proposed 10-year deer plan will be scheduled in the metro area in response to the complaint.
“Of course we weren’t trying to ignore nontraditional stakeholders,” McInenly said.
She said recent public meetings conducted by the DNR wildlife staff on other issues have been lightly attended in the metro core. She said the 35 deer plan meetings announced Monday were based on a desire by the DNR to start building better relationships between the public and the state’s 35 area wildlife managers. One meeting was scheduled for every wildlife area office — none of which is in the inner city, she said.
McInenly said DNR officials hope to finalize the deer plan by late summer. It requires no outside approval and would establish a target harvest of 200,000 whitetails every year. The plan released Monday resulted from more than a year of meetings with a statewide citizen advisory panel. A new citizen panel would be formed under the deer plan to strengthen ongoing deer management communications between the DNR and the public.