Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Meet Minnesota’s new DNR regional wildlife, fisheries managers

St. Paul — Late in 2022, the DNR announced new hires for three of the agency’s regional wildlife manager positions across the state of Minnesota.

These managers bring experience and knowledge to three key offices.

Gretchen Miller, central region wildlife manager

Miller earned a degree in wildlife management at the University of Wisconsin-Superior in 2002 and then spent time in Idaho as well as with the Wisconsin DNR before being hired as the assistant Minnesota DNR wildlife manager in Sauk Rapids.

Miller also worked for the Parks and Trails Division as a resource specialist for eight years.

She continued her wildlife management career in Rochester for three years and then took a supervisory role with Parks and Trails as the District 8 supervisor. She oversaw a six-county area in the southeastern part of Minnesota.

As for initial priorities as central region wildlife manager, Miller said she wants to connect with her team and understand what’s needed to take the next steps in projects and research.

She said wants to make sure region employees have what’s needed to do their jobs.

Gretchen Miller is pictured with her daughter, Madeline, son, Reed, and husband, Mark. (Photo courtesy of Gretchen Miller)

“Some of these folks are the very folks I looked up to and worked side by side with when I started with the department in 2004,” Miller said “Building trust or establishing it where needed will be key over these next few months as I take on this leadership role.”

Miller also said she hopes to get into the field and continue to help with projects and research.

Outside of her DNR responsibilities, she said she enjoys turkey hunting as well as hiking and botany (identifying plants).

Miller also takes part in outdoor activities with her children – Reed, 5, and Madeline, 2 – and her husband, Mark.

Blane Klemek, northwest region wildlife manager

Klemek earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fisheries and wildlife biology at the University of North Dakota. He said he always had his eyes set on DNR work and took seasonal positions over the years, always desiring a full-time position.

Klemek’s first full-time job with the DNR came in 2002 as a private lands wildlife specialist in Bemidji. He became an assistant area wildlife manager in 2005. After six years, Klemek traveled to Detroit Lakes to be an area wildlife manager before becoming the assistant northwest region wildlife manager in 2013.

Klemek stepped into a temporary role as the northwest region wildlife manager during the past year after the former manager retired. He said he accepted the manager position while sitting in his deer stand Nov. 30.

Klemek said his first priority as regional wildlife manager is to hire an assistant. Klemek also wants to fill other vacancies in his region and provide his staff with the appropriate resources to do their jobs.

Blane Klemek has been named the DNR’s northwest region wildlife manager. (Photo courtesy of DNR)

Klemek said he wants to focus his attention on dealing with chronic wasting disease in the area, finish the Red Lake Wildlife Management Area plan, and work with the elk population in the northwest.

“Wildlife managers here in the northwest continue to work with the public in improving elk habitat to achieve elk population management goals,” he said.

Klemek enjoys hunting for big game and takes trips to Colorado to hunt mule deer and elk. He also likes to fish and camp and takes annual trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with friends.


Lindsey Shartell, northeast region wildlife manager

Shartell earned a degree in forest ecology and management and then received a doctoral degree in forest science at Michigan Tech University. After graduating in 2012, she started working for the Minnesota DNR in 2013.

From the outset, Shartell worked on a number of wildlife research projects. Some of these included learning the lifestyles and habitats of sharp-tailed grouse and GIS modeling with wildlife habitats.

Shartell started and stayed in Grand Rapids during her time with the DNR. She’s served in acting roles as manager for the Forest Wildlife Populations and Research Group and as the northeast regional wildlife manager.

“I’ve been doing this job for the past year and so it’s been a pretty smooth transition,” she said.

Similar to the other managers, Shartell said she wants to get her staff to full capacity and make sure her field staff has the resources and funds to make certain their projects and research are done in the best way.

Outside of work, Shartell said she enjoys hunting with her three dogs and chasing birds throughout the state and surrounding states. She also likes to band woodcock chicks to help understand the habitats of these birds.

Marc Bacigalupi, northwest region fisheries manager

Bacigalupi grew up in Pine City and received his undergraduate degree from Drake University in Iowa. Then, he went to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for a master’s degree. His master’s thesis: examining different strains of walleyes in southern Minnesota.

In 2001, he was hired by the DNR as a west metro fisheries specialist. In 2006, Bacigalupi became the assistant fisheries supervisor in Waterville.

In that role, he still did field work but also supported administrative functions and operational logistics. In 2010, Bacigalupi became the Brainerd-area fisheries supervisor until recently being named northwest regional manager in the Bemidji office.

“The northwest has tremendous resources, as you know,” Bacigalupi said. “It’s exciting to be over here. We have very productive waters and world-renowned fisheries.”

Like other regional managers, Bacigalupi wants to focus on filling the area fisheries vacancies in the northwest region. Another priority is getting out to field offices for visits and to better become familiar with the area.

Bacigalupi said he enjoys fishing and has helped his child’s high school bass fishing team. He also likes to hunt deer and has a German short-haired pointer over which he hunts pheasants.

Leslie George, northeast region fisheries manager

George grew up in the Twin Cities, but hasn’t lived there since high school. She attended the University of Minnesota- Duluth for her undergraduate degree in fish and wildlife management.

Thereafter, she interned at the Minnesota DNR’s east metro fisheries office. George continued her education with a graduate program at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities on a DNR-supported fisheries project.

George began her full-time career with the DNR in 2004 as a fisheries specialist in the Windom office for more than two before moving to Glenwood to become the aquatic plant management specialist for the northwest region.

After nine years in that position, George transferred to Lanesboro to be the acting area fisheries supervisor. Her most recent position before this position was in Hinckley as the area fisheries supervisor.

“I think I had a desire to become involved at a higher level on these more wide-sweeping issues,” George said.

George has a couple of priorities heading into her new position. First, she wants to build relationships with her staff, community, and various partners that collaborate with the DNR in the northeast region of Minnesota.

Second, she wants to provide stability and support for staff in the region. George’s position was vacant for almost two years before she accepted the role, and there are many vacancies that need to be filled.

Outside of work, George enjoys fishing and hunting, but really focuses on sturgeon fishing as well as camping and fishing in areas throughout the state.

Outdoor News contained additional profiles and photos of Shartell, Bacigalupi, and George in its Dec. 2, 2022 edition.

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