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Dennis Anderson: A sportsman's life, Minnesota style

Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune on

Published in Outdoors

First in an occasional series profiling Minnesotans whose lives, lifestyles and in some cases, livelihoods are defined by the state's natural resources.

Jay Johnson probably would have been an outdoorsman even if his dad hadn't taken him hunting and fishing as a kid. But his father's influence certainly helped.

"As a kid, your primary interest outdoors is usually what the primary interest is of a parent or mentor,'' Johnson said. "My dad really liked to hunt ducks. He took me trout fishing and grouse and pheasant hunting. But he really liked duck hunting.''

Born in Minneapolis but raised in Brooklyn Park, Jay Johnson was hired as a teenager by Ted and Bud Burger at their Burger Brothers sporting goods store at 44th and France in Edina.

In 1985, Johnson won the Minnesota state duck calling contest. He was the state champ the next year also.

In the 35 years since — he's 61 now — Johnson has worked in wildlife-art distribution, land and water conservation, outdoor education, hunter recruitment and, most recently, land acquisition for the Department of Natural Resources, from which he retired Nov. 2 after 14 years with the agency.

 

Johnson is one of some 2.3 million Minnesotans who hunt, fish or do both, a number that generally has held steady, despite significant losses in these activities in other states.

Nurturing these interests are Minnesota's wildly diverse landscape, vast swaths of public land, 10,000 lakes and 92,000 miles of rivers.

These resources and — importantly — access to them by the public contribute to a $9.1 billion annual outdoor recreation economy, or about 2.4% of the state's gross domestic product.

From this, one could reasonably conclude that among politicians' and policymakers' hierarchy of action items, public land acquisition and conservation should be at the top.

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