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Duluth loses DNR wildlife manager position, federal agent after retirements

The positions are moving to Cloquet and the Twin Cities.

Martha Minchak and crew on Interstate Island
Martha Minchak, left, works on the piping plover restoration effort on Intestate Island in the Twin Ports harbor. Minchak recently retired from the Minnesota DNR after 38 years of service, including 22 as the local assistant wildlife manager stationed in Duluth. That position is being moved to Cloquet.
Bob King / 2016 file / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Retirements have left Duluth minus any wildlife division presence from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and left the region without a local federal game warden as both positions will be moved to other locations.

Martha Minchak retired from the DNR recently after 38 years of service with the agency. Minchak was stationed in Duluth as the assistant wildlife manager for 22 years and most recently was a key player in the St. Louis River Estuary restoration effort. She also was often the first call for people with wildlife issues in Duluth, including bears and other critters that got into trouble with residents.

Chris Balzer, head DNR wildlife manager for the Cloquet area, which includes Duluth, said he hopes to replace Minchak soon, but that the position will be stationed in the DNR’s new Cloquet office, with no wildlife staff in Duluth.

Meanwhile, Ron Kramer recently retired as the U.S. Fish and wildlife service special agent for northern Minnesota. The agency has closed the Duluth office and apparently will cover northern Minnesota from the Twin Cities.

Among other duties, the federal warden investigated illegal killings of wolve s and other endangered and federally protected species, like bald eagles. Agency officials reached this week said they wouldn’t discuss where officers are stationed. The phone to the Duluth office has been disconnected.

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Other outdoor agency staffing news

  • Tony Elwell is the new Minnesota DNR conservation officer in the Cloquet area. Elwell was previously stationed in the Thief River Falls area of northwestern Minnesota. He replaces Scott Staples , who became a northern Minnesota regional manager for enforcement.
  • Leslie George has been named the DNR’s Northeastern Region fisheries manager.  She began her career with DNR in 2004, worked in field offices in Windom and Glenwood, Minnesota, and has been a fisheries supervisor since 2015, most recently at Hinckley.
  • Lindsey Shartell has been named the DNR’s Northeastern Region wildlife manager. She began working for DNR in 2013 as a researcher in the Forest Wildlife Populations and Research group and has served in acting roles as that group’s research group leader and northeast region wildlife manager.
Conservation officers around Duluth see a mostly quiet Minnesota deer hunting opener.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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