Thursday, January 26th, 2023
Thursday, January 26th, 2023

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Lessard on board as new DNR consultant

Associate Editor

St. Paul Citing his passion for the outdoors and his extensive
experience as a state legislator, the DNR said it will ink former
senator Bob Lessard, of International Falls, to a two-year
“professional and technical services contract.” Officials say the
contract is not to exceed $49,000 over a two-year period.

“We’re in the final stages of putting the contract together,”
the DNR’s C.B. Bylander said this week. “We expect him to start
this week.”

The DNR announced the plans at its roundtable event north of
Brainerd last weekend.

Bylander said Lessard, 73, will serve as the DNR’s Fish and
Wildlife Division liaison to government agencies and
non-governmental groups, both at the state and local levels.

“We want him to be a catalyst, to help make things happen,”
Bylander said. “We think he can do that through his connections and
the passion he has for the outdoors.”

Lessard said he will not be a lobbyist. In fact, he expects to
spend little time at the St. Paul Capitol.

“I’m not a lobbyist, I’m going to work for the DNR. I didn’t
take this job to be a lobbyist,” he said.

Instead, Lessard said he’d work to forge relationships and
coalitions and help to secure funding for Minnesota fish and
wildlife.

“I think I have a good reputation and a good track record of
working through some adversarial thickets,” he said.

Like it was when he retired after 26 years in the state Senate
two years ago, Lessard said getting dedicated state funding for
fish and wildlife programs will be near the top of his list. The
so-called “3/16ths” plan has brewed in the Legislature for several
years now.

Lessard said several other issues may benefit from his guidance.
Those include funding for another round of the Conservation Reserve
Enhancement Program, the battle against exotic invasive species,
hunter access to forest land owned by paper companies in northern
Minnesota, and cormorant control.

For the vast majority of Lessard’s legislative career, he was a
member of the DFL party. However, when he retired in 2002, he was
an Independent. Most recently, he said he’s supported some of
President George Bush’s conservation policies. However, following
retirement, he maintains that he didn’t work for the state
Republican Party.

Lessard said the issues he’ll tackle should receive bipartisan
support, anyway.

“I have friends on both sides of the aisle,” he said.

Bylander said the plan to hire Lessard was an “idea that
jelled.”

“We recognized the needs of the department and the skills of
Bob,” he said. “There are plenty of issues and he knows key
people.”

Lessard said as word of his new position has spread, he’s
already begun to receive calls from some of the people he came to
know while he was a senator, as well as chair of the Senate
Environment and Natural Resources Committee for more than a
decade.

And he’s set to attend meetings, many of which he’s attended on
his own volition the past couple years.

“I’m a consultant,” he said. “I’ll go where I’m wanted and I
won’t go where I’m not wanted. I’m doing this because I have a
passion for it.”

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