The Department of Natural Resources will highlight the different ways Minnesotans connect to the outdoors at this year's "roundtable" conference of nearly 500 invited stakeholders.
The annual daylong meeting of fishing guides, hunters, campers, naturalists, trail users, lobbyists, legislators, resort owners and DNR resource managers also will emphasize impacts of climate change. Other issues on Friday's agenda include chronic wasting disease in deer, new plans for enhancing pheasant and duck hunting and "easy ways to access great fishing for all anglers."
"We expect to have good conversations," said Dave Olfelt, head of the DNR's division of fish and wildlife.
Conference planners are aiming to keep a lot of the presentations shorter this year to allow more time for discussion between guests and agency personnel. For example, separate afternoon sessions are tagged merely as "hot topic" discussions on fisheries, wildlife and water.
"We want more time for Q and A … instead of just talking at people," Olfelt said.
DNR oversees mining in Minnesota, and one roundtable topic notably absent this year is the possible Twin Metals sulfide-ore copper mine proposed for the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Olfelt said it's possible that attendees will raise the issue even though it's not on the agenda. None of the more than 20 agenda items involves the Division of Lands and Minerals.
Former DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, who now heads the nonprofit Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, said he doesn't understand why the topic is missing from the program.
"It's certainly one of those things that would have relevance to the audience," Landwehr said. "The roundtable is a great place to bring up complicated, controversial issues."
One such discussion is likely to develop in an afternoon session called "Forest Management Fundamentals" to be hosted by Olfelt, Emily Peters and DNR forestry section manager Doug Tillma.
The agency has been criticized by a group of its former foresters and wildlife managers who say a new plan to increase the state's timber harvest will remove too much old forest. The change will rob a variety of animals of crucial habitat, the critics have said.
Olfelt said the forestry presentation will be broader than the controversial timber plan. But any related questions would fit into the question-and-answer segment, he said.
Attendees choose which sessions to attend. One of four climate-related sessions will delve into fish genetics and how a strain of walleyes living in southern Minnesota are resilient to higher temperatures.
Gov. Tim Walz won't attend the roundtable, but he's expected to deliver a message after the event starts at 10 a.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Bloomington.
When Walz appointed Sarah Strommen to lead the agency, she vowed to deepen the connections Minnesotans have to the outdoors. In that spirit, Strommen will kick off the roundtable by leading a panel discussion built around the outdoor experiences of five people from diverse backgrounds.