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Local anglers benefit from citizen-agency workgroups

Brad Parsons, Central Minnesota DNR fishery manager, shares data with the citizen-agency walleye species workgroup during a recent meeting held in Brainerd. The data pertained to test net results. (Gary Korsgaden/For the Enterprise)

The Minnesota Department of Resources organized five, citizen-agency fish species workgroups. One of the goals for the group is to provide a conduit for transfer of information between citizens and the agency.

Brad Parsons, Central Minnesota fisheries manager, describes the species groups this way: "The DNR and the Section of Fisheries are committed to getting the best input we can from the public. One extremely valuable way is our five, citizen-agency fish species workgroups that provide input into DNR management of bass, catfish, panfish, walleye, northern pike and muskellunge. Members chosen come with a variety of viewpoints, then work together to discuss topics including recreation, water quality, fish habitat and effects on local economies, thus improving discussion between citizens and the DNR."

Local anglers also benefit greatly also from these species work groups.

"Volunteers who serve on these species work groups are selected from a variety of backgrounds so they can bring a variety of viewpoints to the group," explained Doug Kingsley. Park Rapids Minnesota DNR Area Fisheries Manager. "Yet, I think all of the participants understand what 'average' anglers want and are advocates for that. Discussion topics may come from DNR, but just as often come from the citizen members of the work group. During these discussions there are opportunities for DNR staff to explain to the group what we are doing (or not doing) and why, and to get informed feedback on that. There are also opportunities for the group to make suggestions about issues important to the state's anglers. In some cases, those discussions have led to changes in our management."

First, a citizen is invited to represent the Park Rapids area then the selected member is joined by other representatives from lake associations, fishing guides, tournament directors, civic and business leaders, angling organizations and professional fishing promoters statewide.

Species work group meetings are held two to three times a year at different locations in the state, with featured presentations leading to discussions on topics of high priority, including stocking programs, slot limits, food, habitat and bag limits. Discussions are in-depth, informative and heated at times. Members of the work groups take home valuable information and insight to share with others.

Fisheries resource management is not perfect — a number of seen and unseen variables can drastically change the course and results. Resource management programs are developed with only the best in biological data available gathered at that time. Politics and social pressures at the top levels of government in St. Paul derail some of the best fisheries management processes — a trend that is seen happening more today than before.

In my opinion, political leaders and representatives are taking on the role of managing our natural resources instead of allowing well-trained resource professionals with years of data and practical in the field experience simply to do their jobs.

While frustrating at times, the meetings are extremely rewarding and informative. It's an excellent opportunity to hear the varied opinions from citizen members from across the state concerning the state's fishery resource, with a listening ear of Minnesota DNR in the background.

I encourage readers to use my involvement in the species work groups to have their thoughts heard. To do so, contact me by email: gkorsgaden@unitelc.com.

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