Minnesota DNR shares names of ‘advisors’ on agency reinvestment plan

Minnesota – like much of the country – has seen more pressure on natural resources via increased outdoors recreation – including at places like iconic Itasca State Park – so a reinvestment plan would examine future spending priorities as well as sources of funding. (Photo by Brian Peterson)

During the virtual DNR Roundtable back in January, Commissioner Sarah Strommen surprised participants by announcing her intentions for a new agency reinvestment plan.

The initiative, she told Outdoor News the following week, would tackle the long-debated, looming narrative that current models for natural resources funding may not be sustainable in the longterm. Although hunting and fishing license sales saw an upward blip in 2020, the trend for decades has been a slow, steady decrease.

Meanwhile, Minnesota – like much of the country – has seen more pressure on natural resources via increased outdoors recreation, so a reinvestment plan would examine future spending priorities as well as sources of funding.

“Now is the time we should not only talk about how we make those future investments, but really come up with a concrete plan and set of recommendations for how Minnesota can invest in (the outdoors) for future generations,” she told Outdoor News Editor Tim Spielman in the Jan. 29 print edition of the newspaper.

As part of the process, Strommen said DNR officials would review funding models from other states to determine if they might succeed here. She said then that the DNR was getting a team up and running to devise a framework for the reinvestment project.

Outdoor News and most of its sources in state conservation didn’t hear much for updates on the effort until a Dennis Anderson Star Tribune column from Saturday, June 12, where he reported that the Strommen DNR was turning to a panel of non-DNR employees for funding ideas.

“The effort will kick off June 29, when a small group of non-DNR employees familiar with fundraising, resource management and public policy gathers to study and discuss funding issues plaguing resource agencies nationwide,” Anderson wrote.

Duluth’s Dave Zentner, a longtime volunteer and leader on statewide conservation issues (and the 2013 Outdoor News Person of the Year) would be serving on the committee, Anderson reported.

Spielman spoke with Strommen on Monday, and she stressed that this is not a formal committee, but rather “advisors” with various specialties to help DNR officials envision the future of the state’s outdoors and how to fund future needs outside of the current funding model.

Via email on Wednesday, Outdoor News asked Gail Nosek, DNR communication director, whether part of the role of the advisors would be to review funding models from other states to see if they might succeed here. She replied: “In terms of the funding models from other states, the review will be a combination of perspectives from our advisors, existing experience and expertise of our DNR staff, as well as additional research by DNR staff. Also, we likely will solicit expertise and input from DNR partner organizations who have experience with funding models in other states.”

Advisor list

Late Tuesday afternoon, after this week’s print edition of Outdoor News went to press, the DNR provided a list of the initial advisors on the effort. Nosek said the agency had not yet solicited bios from them, but she provided some brief info on their affiliations. Outdoor News filled out the following descriptions via LinkedIn and other information available online. In addition to Zentner, the list includes:

  • Nikki Bentley, DNR Budget Oversight Committee chair and senior legal solutions specialist at Thomson Reuters in Eagan.
  • Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson, whose LinkedIn profile lists her as chief of staff for World Savvy, an education management firm, and a council liaison for the Twin Cities Metropolitan Parks and Open Space Commission.
  • Don Ness, mayor of Duluth from 2008-2016 and current executive director of the Ordean Foundation.
  • Bret Weiss, president and CEO of WSB & Associates, a Minneapolis-based consulting firm specializing in engineering, community planning, environmental, and construction services.
  • Michelle Beeman, retired former deputy commissioner at Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  • Dorothy Anderson, a retired University of Minnesota natural resources professor.
  • Joe Hoppe, a former Republican Minnesota House of Representatives member representing Chaska from 2003 to 2019.
  • Katy Friesz, Winnebago Industries. Her LinkedIn profile lists her as executive director for Winnebago’s Foundation and Corporate Responsibility in Minneapolis.
  • Tom Neustrom, a Grand Rapids-based fishing guide and regular participant and contributor at the annual DNR Roundtable.
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