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Adam Murkowski, DNR big game program leader, gives an introduction about Minnesota’s first-ever deer management plan Wednesday during a public engagement meeting held at the Hampton Inn in Bemidji. (Maggi Stivers | Forum News Service)

DNR deer management plan takes first steps

BEMIDJI, Minn. — Officials from the Department of Natural Resources met with Bemidji area residents Wednesday as part of a new initiative to create a long-term deer management strategy based on public input.

The format of the meeting, and others like it around the state taking place until early March, allow for the attendees to gather into groups, create ideas related to seven selected topics, and then provide feedback to DNR officials. According to Adam Murkowski, the agency's big game program manager, the initiative was launched last spring.

"Tonight is a sort of culmination of what began last May when an evaluation of the state's deer program was released," Murkowski said. "One of the recommendations was that the state would benefit from a deer management plan, something that provided a long-range view."

In the months that followed, Murkowski said the DNR began meeting with hunters, farmers and other related organizations about the potential deer plan. As a result, the decision was made to form an advisory committee with 20 members, 13 of which being organization representatives and seven at-large members from across the state.

After their first meeting in mid-December, the committee produced the seven topics that were discussed at Wednesday's meeting.

Those topics include:

• Deer health.

• Deer population management.

• Communication and information sharing related to deer management.

• Hunter and non-hunter satisfaction.

• Healthy habitats.

• Impacts of deer on other resources in the state.

• Funding for deer management.

For Bernie Overby, a resident of Kenyon, Minn., and at-large member of the committee, a goal he pushed for was communication.

"It's important to let people talk and to listen to them. One of the things I've talked about extensively was getting more transparency," Overby said. "Get input from the hunters and other groups. Then, the next point is the output. Explain the things that happen and why a decision has been made. Do that instead of letting people find out when they first get their deer hunting book."

Wednesday's meeting was the second to take place, with the first being in Thief River Falls and the next scheduled in Alexandria.

"We want the attendees to really brainstorm at these meetings. Let them determine where we're headed in the right direction at the DNR and also where we may be missing things," Murkowski said. "We're going to take the input from these public meetings and continue to think about how to incorporate that."

Once the meetings are finished, the department and the committee will work on producing a draft plan with a goal of completion by the end of 2017. A final plan would then be produced in 2018, which would be followed by the implementation, Murkowski said.

"Our hope is to come up with a five-to-10 year plan," Murkowski said. "If there are things that are identified that are very important, though, they may be things we work on while the plan is still in development."

For more information on the subject, visit the DNR's website at " target="_blank">www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/deer/management/planning/index.html.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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