Appleton is urging DNR to remain in town
APPLETON -- Area legislators and public officials in Appleton are urging the state Department of Natural Resources to keep its wildlife office in the community, and not move the four-person staff to the Lac qui Parle refuge headquarters 17 miles ...
APPLETON -- Area legislators and public officials in Appleton are urging the state Department of Natural Resources to keep its wildlife office in the community, and not move the four-person staff to the Lac qui Parle refuge headquarters 17 miles away.
It's a matter of protecting jobs in the community, and maintaining the accessibility and rapport between the DNR and public that has been made possible by having the office in Appleton, according to Gary Hendrickx, an Appleton business owner and member of the Swift County Board of Commissioners.
Appleton area wildlife manager Dave Soehren has staffed a DNR office in Appleton since its opening in 1982. The office and Soehren's presence in the community have gone a long way toward keeping communication open between the public and the DNR, according to Hendrickx.
"You might not like what the DNR is doing -- or you might like it -- but either way, it helps to have that dialogue,'' said Hendrickx.
City officials in Appleton learned earlier this year that the DNR is looking at moving the wildlife office.
Until now, Hendrickx said that city officials believed the DNR was on track to invest in a new office in Appleton.
The Appleton Project, a local development group, had offered the DNR up to $20,000 toward the possible purchase of a house built by an industrial arts class at the Lac qui Parle Valley High School. City officials were hoping the DNR would purchase the house and place it on the former Minnesota Department of Transportation maintenance garage site in Appleton.
A former highway maintenance garage on the site is currently serving as the area wildlife headquarters for the DNR in Appleton.
The former MnDOT site -- now owned by the DNR -- offers ample room for the storage of equipment used by the DNR wildlife office, but the converted garage space is inadequate for office use.
The Appleton staff had to move out of its longtime office space at the National Guard Armory in December due to a remodeling project there. The DNR also closed its Madison wildlife office at the start of this year and transferred the staff to the Appleton office.
The DNR is currently searching for temporary quarters for the four wildlife workers in Appleton, according to Dave Schad, director of fish and wildlife for the DNR in St. Paul. It is also considering the former Lac qui Parle State Park office site for the staff, he added.
In a year or two, he said the DNR hopes to build new office space for the wildlife staff at the Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area headquarters. There currently is not a funding request before the Legislature for the project, however.
Schad said it is a matter of making the most efficient use of the department's resources in the long term. There are cost and efficiency advantages that come with centralizing DNR wildlife staff, Schad said, and the Appleton staff members frequently work with their counterparts at the Lac qui Parle refuge.
Reduced accessibility and visibility for the DNR in Appleton is one disadvantage, he said. The Lac qui Parle refuge headquarters location in Chippewa County also is not ideal for the service area administered by the Appleton office staff. Appleton offers a central location for the area of Swift, Big Stone and Lac qui Parle counties the office services.
In the long run, Schad said, the advantages of centralizing operations at Lac qui Parle outweigh the disadvantages.
The Lac qui Parle refuge headquarters building currently provides office space for both the refuge staff and the Lac qui Parle State Park. The building was designed to accommodate future expansion for office space, he said.
State Rep. Aaron Peterson, DFL-Madison, and State Sen. Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, told the Tribune that they have voiced their opposition to moving the wildlife office. Both indicated that they were not optimistic about persuading the DNR to change its plans, but said they were going to continue trying. "You have to keep working on it until you have gotten a definite no,'' said Kubly.