Dayton’s choice of Minnesota DNR commissioner is praised

Duluth News Tribune 
Sam Cook 
January 6, 2011

Tom Landwehr, a former state wildlife official who has worked most recently for nonprofit conservation groups, has been appointed commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Dayton made the announcement at his office Thursday morning.

Landwehr, 55, of Shoreview, Minn., worked for the DNR from 1982 through 1999, serving as wetlands wildlife program leader during his last nine years with the agency. After leaving the agency, he served as conservation director for Ducks Unlimited and most recently was assistant state director for The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Duluth conservationist David Zentner applauded Dayton's selection of Landwehr.

"It's wonderful," said Zentner, who has worked closely with Landwehr for the past eight years on various conservation issues. "I think it washes well to have a leader who has had a significant amount of experience inside the agency, who's professionally trained and prepared, and then as a citizen to have this outside-the-agency life with two of the most successful non-governmental organizations in the world – Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy."

Landwehr worked as a wildlife research biologist, an area wildlife manager and as the DNR's wetlands wildlife program leader in his 17 years with the agency. He is also an adjunct instructor in the College of Natural Resources with the University of Minnesota.

In his work with the Nature Conservancy, he was instrumental in helping restore the Glacial Ridge area of northwestern Minnesota, the largest prairie wetlands restoration project in the nation.

Landwehr said he looks forward to leading the DNR.

"I am honored to serve Governor Dayton and the citizens of Minnesota in this critical position," Landwehr said in a prepared statement. "By bringing together all those with a stake in the future of our state's resources, I hope to show that sound conservation and vital communities are a natural combination. We need to have a Department of Natural Resources that works for all Minnesotans."

The Nature Conservancy will miss Landwehr, said Peggy Ladner, director of the organization.

"Tom has been a tremendous leader in our efforts over the past seven years to help conserve Minnesota's best lands and waters for everyone's benefit… He's an outstanding choice," Ladner said.

Dayton had promised the outdoor public at recent Game Fair expos in the Anoka, Minn., that he would appoint a DNR commissioner with experience as a natural resources professional. Landwehr's appointment fulfills that commitment, said Garry Leaf, executive director of Sportsmen for Change. He thinks Landwehr is ideal for the position.

"I think the most important issue will be the collaboration with various stakeholder groups," Leaf said. "He brings that right to the table today."

Zentner said Landwehr's interests and experience will serve him well as DNR commissioner.

"He's got the land issues from forest to prairies to watersheds. He's a respected outdoorsman. There's no more hardcore pheasant-duck-fish guy," Zentner said. "I've worked with him for years and watched him be so successful with collaboration."

Wayne Brandt, executive vice-president of the Minnesota Forest Industries and Minnesota Timber Producers Association, has served with Landwehr on a couple of committees.

"I think Tom is a good guy. He's a smart guy, well-educated," Brandt said. "I wouldn't say he's steeped in DNR forest management or the northern Minnesota culture, so he'll have a learning curve there."

Jeff Lightfoot, DNR regional wildlife manager at Grand Rapids worked with Landwehr when Landwehr was with the agency.

"I found Tom to be someone easy to approach, to question, to challenge the thoughts he might have," Lightfoot said. "Always in a professional and friendly way was how Tom responded. His experience since he left the agency has probably added to his experience, and he'll do a fantastic job as our commissioner."

Frank Ongaro, executive director of Mining Minnesota based in Duluth, said he's encouraged that Gov. Dayton has indicated support for mining development projects.

"On a state level, we look forward to working with (Landwehr) on that front," Ongaro said. "There may be some challenges on a broader level.

There may be a need to demonstrate to the global investment community that having state agency heads that have come from a background of…environmental advocacy that Minnesota is a good place to invest in mining development."

Dayton noted Landwehr's insider's knowledge and outsider's perspective of the agency.

"I believe that Tom Landwehr has the years of experience in resource conservation and management, as well as 17 years of service in the DNR, to bring strong leadership to that vitally important agency," Dayton said.

"No other agency of state government affects as many Minnesotans' lives directly as the DNR. At its best, the agency is viewed as a wise steward of our state's natural resources for the benefit of all our citizens and for future generations. Tom's mandate from me is to bring out the best in the agency and all of its people."

Landwehr, who has a wildlife management master's degree, served seven years on the Shoreview City Council.