Dennis Anderson: DNR leader says funding needed, source to be determined

Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune on

Published in Outdoors

Appointed Department of Natural Resources commissioner in 2019 by Gov. Tim Walz, Sarah Strommen is the first woman to lead the conservation agency. In the interview below Strommen, now reappointed by Walz, looks back at recent conservation successes and also at challenges that lie ahead. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Did Gov. Walz call you into his office to let you know you were being reappointed and what he wanted you to do in the next four years?

A: We had an informal conversation. One of the governor's goals for example is to ensure Minnesota is the best state for kids to grow up. In our conversation, I also discussed what's on my plate.

Q: Which is ...?

A: The top item is continuing our work to ensure the future of conservation and outdoor recreation funding. The citizens group we put together in recent years developed a four-pronged plan. Some of these ideas we hope to implement within a year or so. Others will take time. There is no single solution.

Q: What's the first step?


A: Optimizing the funding we have, en route to achieving at the end of four years a more stable source of funding, when perhaps a larger portion of our budget will come from the General Fund. Another idea is to implement a state excise tax on outdoor gear.

Q: Future conservation funding is a challenge because projections show a decline in hunting and fishing participation. Won't that falloff be accelerated if you raise license fees, as some have suggested? Or, as another example, increase state park fees?

A: We don't want to get to a point where we price people out of the outdoors.

Q: Can the DNR get by with fewer employees?


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