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Minnesota DNR hires Bob Welsh to manage wildlife habitat program

A veteran Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologist has been selected to manage the state's wildlife habitat program. Bob Welsh, an assistant regional wildlife manager for the past six years, will oversee the agency's recently realigned forest, wetland and prairie-farmland habitat programs.

Welsh is a former DNR research biologist, wildlife depredation specialist and north metro area supervisor. He will oversee three DNR habitat teams that, among other responsibilities, will help the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council successfully and efficiently implement Legacy Amendment habitat projects. The DNR created these teams to improve the agency's capacity and ability to work with partners who share common habitat goals.

"Habitat management is the heart and soul of wildlife management," said Dennis Simon, DNR wildlife section chief. "We have realigned staff to put additional emphasis on the needs of ducks, pheasants and other game species."

Simon said a big part of Welsh's job will be identifying habitat improvement opportunities and turning them into realities that benefit hunters and others.

Until recently, Simon said, habitat management was dispersed broadly among many different employees in the Wildlife Section. As a result, habitat projects were too often relegated to the back burner as staff focused on the more immediate needs of setting seasons, conducting surveys, implementing legislation, preventing the spread of Bovine TB and Chronic Wasting Disease, and addressing stakeholder issues.

"The urgent was overtaking the important," said Simon. "So, we retooled. We haven't added staff, but we have realigned to increase our emphasis on habitat, especially as it relates to helping the state put Legacy Amendment dollars do their best and highest use."

Specifically, Welsh will oversee:

-A prairie habitat team led by Bill Penning that will focus on agricultural-related issues; the state's new hunter Walk-In Area program; prairie habitat research and assessment; and partnerships that result in large blocks of habitat by coordinating state, federal and nonprofit conservation opportunities.

-A forest wildlife habitat team led by Cynthia Osmundson that will focus on the habitat needs of deer, moose and other forest species. It will be composed of forest-wildlife habitat coordinators, a ruffed grouse coordinator, a habitat assessment specialist and others.

-A wetland habitat team that will work with Ducks Unlimited and others to manage projects related to wild rice, shallow lakes, seasonal wetlands, wetland-grassland complexes and providing technical advice to private landowners. A team leader will be appointed soon.

Welsh said he's looking forward to the new assignment. "Basically, these three teams will be evaluating the effectiveness of our programs, identifying opportunities that maximize results, and providing good science to lawmakers and others who fund habitat conservation. That's important and rewarding work. It will complement the efforts of others in our section teams who focus on operations, field support, managing wildlife populations, and coordinating state and federal habitat grants."