Tom Landwehr: Gov. Dayton’s fine choice for Minnesota DNR Commissioner
Gov. Mark Dayton’s selection Thursday of Tom Landwehr to lead
the Minnesota DNR has received a thumbs-up from nearly everyone in
the outdoors community, including the editorial staff here at
Outdoor News. The timing occurs right before arguably the agency’s
biggest policy weekend of the year, the Wildlife, Fisheries and
Eco-Services Roundtable in Brooklyn Center. That bodes well for the
event’s agenda, which undoubtably would have carried an unsettled
tone without a new commissioner in place.
The selection did not occur without a few nervous moments. Last
week, Garry Leaf, from Sportsmen for Change, was on the phone
alerting folks that Dayton might indeed go back on his campaign
pledge to appoint a resource professional to the post. On Dec. 31,
Dayton appointed Paul Aasen, director at the Minnesota Center for
Environmental Advocacy, to lead the Minnesota Pollution Control
Agency as commissioner. This, along with Dave Fredrickson, a farmer
with a great conservation reputation, at Department of Agriculture,
qualify as good picks. There was some concern among
conservationists, however, that Dayton’s transition team might try
to balance those picks with a politician from northern Minnesota
with more of a logging or mining background for DNR.
That didn’t happen, so let’s celebrate the fact that Dayton got
this pick right. Who knows where time and policy will take us? Rod
Sando was a resource professional, but he watched his tenure as
DNR commissioner bogged down by years of treaty rights lawsuits and
management protocol. Still, I’m optimistic about Landwehr. He’s a
tough guy who understands the science behind resource decisions,
but he’s been around the politics side of things long enough to
navigate that playing field.
One of my first interactions with Landwehr was when he was
DNR wetlands wildlife program leader, back in about 1998, and
dealing with a group of animal rights people up at Carlos Avery.
Remember that story?
There were some extra metro Canada geese, and an animal rights
group sued to prevent them from becoming food shelf dinners. The
group found an Indian tribe in Arkansas, if memory serves, willing
to take the geese. The animal wrongies came rolling into Carlos
Avery and began dictating terms of how and when they’d be
I watched as Landwehr quickly took control of the situation, got
in their face, and laid down the law. He impressed me then, and
he’s impressed me his entire career with DNR, DU and later The
Nature Conservancy. He’s built a professional and academic resumé
making him a perfect fit for the post, and the groundswell of
support from a diverse group of conservationists is ridiculously
obvious evidence that a lot of smart people think he’s the right
person for the job. This is the sixth DNR commissioner I’ve seen
during my tenure at Outdoor News, and right out the gate, it looks
like the best.