By Joe Albert Staff Writer
St. Paul — Perhaps it’s only fitting Dave Schad was named as the
new head of the DNR’s Fish and Wildlife Division. He’s been
climbing the ladder since he began with the agency in 1981.
He started as a student worker conducting mail surveys of
hunters and trappers, was an area wildlife manager, and a regional
manager – and made numerous stops in between. Most recently, he was
head of the agency’s Wildlife Management Section.
Schad was tops among a “strong pool of candidates,” said DNR
Deputy Commissioner Mark Holsten. There were between 18 and 24
applicants from within and outside the agency.
“He provides us with that practical application experience, but
also understands the direction and the needs of the department,”
Schad took over the division on Monday. He replaces former
Division Director John Guenther, who retired Jan. 11.
As wildlife management head, Schad oversaw field operations,
acquisition and development of aquatic management areas and
wildlife management areas, and programs for big game, farmland
wildlife, forest wildlife, furbearers, animal damage, and
Schad said his experience in area and regional DNR offices gives
him a unique perspective in leading the division.
He was a regional manager in Brainerd for two years (2000-’02)
and area manager for Chisago, Isanti, and Mille Lacs counties
before that. He’s also been Operations Section chief; operations
manager for the Wildlife Section; wetland wildlife program leader;
forest wildlife program leader; environmental review specialist
with Ecological Services; and WMA inventory coordinator.
“My primary goal is to make sure the work we do is based on the
best possible science out there, but also reflects the values and
desires of the public,” Schad said. “If we’re able to do that
successfully I think we will have come a long way.”
The division faces a number of challenges in the future, Schad
- The waterfowl situation and loss of prairie wetland and
grassland habitat. “That’s a huge issue we are going to be working
for years on,” he said. It will take “a lot of innovation and hard
work for us to take that one on.”
- Wildlife diseases, such as chronic wasting disease, bovine
tuberculosis, and possibly avian influenza. “We haven’t had to deal
with wildlife diseases like a lot of states have,” Schad said.
“That’s really changing.”
The division is creating a new position for a wildlife
veterinarian, “so we can better manage and anticipate those
issues,” Schad said.
- Lake habitat quality in shallow and deep lakes, including
exotic species, development, and water quality issues. “Lakes
generally are going to be a real focus,” he said. “Something that
we need to start doing more work on.”
- Fish stocking, including refining the DNR’s stocking
approaches, getting a better understanding of what the public
expects, and communicating better with the public about why the DNR
does what it does. “We’ve still got some more work to do there,”
The Fish and Wildlife Division includes more than 600 employees,
and has an annual budget of about $60 million.
“People need to have confidence that we are spending their money
and managing the resources of importance to them in the best way
possible,” Schad said. “… To be sure the public has that confidence
and our staff understands the information they bring to the table
is considered and used in our decision-making.”