Minnesota DNR Fish and Wildlife director to retire; new director named

Dave Olfelt, of Grand Rapids, is retiring in July. Kelly Straka, of Proctor, will replace him as division director.

By JOHN MYERS | jmyers@duluthnews.com | Forum News Service

PUBLISHED: June 9, 2024 at 5:05 a.m. | UPDATED: June 9, 2024 at 11:18 a.m.

One of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ top leadership positions is turning over in July when Dave Olfelt, the agency’s Fish and Wildlife Division director, will retire after 37 years of service.

Dave Olfelt,Minnesota

Olfelt started with DNR in 1987 in the agency’s Nongame and Natural Heritage Program and has worked as a field biologist, in state park programs and as regional wildlife official, among other positions. He’s been the leader of the Fish and Wildlife Division for the past five years.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Division Director Dave Olfelt will retire in July 2024. (Courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)

DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen on Monday said that Kelly Straka, who has headed the DNR’s wildlife section for the past four years, will take over Olfelt’s position heading the Fish and Wildlife Division.

The Fish and Wildlife Division’s budget is about $276 million annually and the division has 561 employees across the state dealing with every aspect of wildlife and fisheries management and research. That includes everything from wildlife diseases to invasive carp, from doe permits to trout stamps — and trying to keep hunters and anglers happy about walleyes, whitetails and waterfowl.

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Jason Sumners New Director of the Missouri Department of Conservation

April 19, 2024 MDC Release

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Conservation Commission has selected Jason Sumners as the next director of the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), effective June 1, 2024. Sumners currently serves as the deputy director of resource management for MDC and will succeed Sara Parker Pauley, who will retire this spring after 30 years of public service, as director.

“The Commission did a national search for the director position because we knew we had tough shoes to fill with Sara leaving,” said Missouri Conservation Commission Chair Steven Harrison. “Jason is uniquely poised for this director role with his background, experience, and national connections in conservation. We are looking forward to a smooth transition with Jason at the helm with high expectations with him as the next director.”

“I am excited and humbled by this opportunity the Commission has entrusted me with and the conservation team I get to work with across the state and country,” Sumners said. “The Missouri outdoors have defined my personal and professional life, so getting to serve in this capacity and continue to tackle the ever-evolving challenges in conservation is an exciting endeavor.”

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Governor Kelly Appoints Chris Kennedy as Secretary of Wildlife and Parks

~~Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks Secretary Brad Loveless to Formally Retire in April~~

TOPEKA – Governor Laura Kelly announced today that she has appointed Chris Kennedy as Secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) effective March 18, 2024. Kennedy is preceded by Secretary Brad Loveless whose tenure with the Department began in January 2019.

“I’m grateful to Secretary Loveless for his steadfast commitment to the State of Kansas and our state’s natural resources over the past five years,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “I’m confident that Chris Kennedy is the steadfast leader needed to guide the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks in its next chapter.”

Born in North St. Louis, Missouri, Kennedy was introduced to natural resources at a young age, having grown up shooting, hunting, boating, and fishing. He brings nearly three decades of experience in wildlife and natural resources, beginning with his first internship out of high school at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conducting water quality and quantity research projects across Arkansas, Kansas, and Louisiana. In 1996, Kennedy joined the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), where he remained until this appointment to succeed Loveless.

While at MDC, Kennedy assisted private landowners, managed public waters, conducted public resource education, and sought to increase the agency’s ability to serve all citizens. He is perhaps most well-known for his work researching, managing, and restoring aquatic species such as alligator gar while advancing opportunities for Missouri’s youth to work with resource professionals to better manage public resources. Kennedy has also been a guest on the National Geographic Channel’s Monster Fish and Animal Planet’s River Monsters on episodes featuring the alligator gar.

“I am honored that Governor Kelly has appointed me to serve the people of Kansas in this capacity,” Chris Kennedy said. “I am delighted that my more than 30 years of experience will further strengthen the KDWP’s mission to conserve and enhance the state’s wildlife and natural resources to be enjoyed by Kansans for generations to come.”

To make the transition as smooth as possible, Secretary Loveless will assist Kennedy with integrating into the agency prior to Loveless’ formal departure in April.

“Chris has proven himself a great leader of people with an exceptional understanding of fish, wildlife, and outdoor recreation issues,” Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks Secretary Brad Loveless said. “He’s very fortunate to be working with the professionals at Kansas Wildlife and Parks, and conversely, I know they will really appreciate and enjoy working with someone as capable and committed as Chris.”

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Service launches National Gray Wolf Recovery Plan

Feb 2, 2024

USFWS Public Affairs HQ

WASHINGTON — Recognizing that the national discussion around gray wolf management must look more comprehensively at conservation tools available to federal, state and Tribal governments, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced a path to support a long term and durable approach to the conservation of gray wolves, to include a process to develop – for the first time – a National Recovery Plan under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for gray wolves in the lower 48 states. Today’s announcement does not make any changes to the legal status of gray wolves in the United States.

After an extensive peer-reviewed assessment using the best available science, the Service today announced a not warranted finding for two petitions to list gray wolves under the ESA in the Northern Rocky Mountains and the Western United States. This finding is not action-forcing; the legal status of gray wolves does not change as a result of this finding.

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Wake Sports Legislation

Outdoor News

Bill Moritz, Wildlife Management Institute

December 15, 2023

Legislation (LRB 5069/1) was recently introduced in Wisconsin to provide protection against wake sports activities in Wisconsin lakes. Wake boats are specially designed boats that create large wakes to allow recreationists to enjoy wake boarding and wake surfing. The larger wakes also may impact aquatic environments, shoreline erosion and private property, and public safety. The use of water as a ballast may also have the unintended consequence of spreading aquatic invasive species (AIS).

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