Lack of space for equipment has long been a problem with the Crookston location

    A fixture in downtown Crookston for more than three decades, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Wildlife office on South Main Street is in the process of relocating to Erskine.

    “We searched for another location in Crookston, but came up short,” Blane Klemek, the DNR’s Bemidji-based assistant northwest regional wildlife manager explained to the Times. The new location, as of June 1, will be in the former Erskine Manufacturing building.

    The problem, which Klemek said has been a challenge for many years at the downtown Crookston location, is a lack of space for DNR staff to store and work on equipment. So for a long time, Crookston DNR staff stored their equipment at two locations near Mentor.

    “DNR Wildlife has a lot of history with, and appreciation for, the Crookston community, and there is regret for having to leave our office in downtown Crookston,” Klemek said. “Taxpayers expect us to be more efficient, and so we began searching for places where we could enhance efficiencies and better deliver services to the public. The new location has a shop and is located in the center of Polk County, where most of the wildlife management areas are located at, so now staff won't have to spend us much time driving to these management units to do their work.”

    Jeff Evers owns the building at the corner of South Main and Fletcher Street.

    The history of the Minnesota DNR’s Wildlife office in Crookston dates back to when Terry Wolfe started as the area wildlife manager and worked out of his home. Over the years, the downtown office was first located at 202 South Main, then moved next door to its current home at 204 South Main. Wolfe staffed the office for many years, as did Ross Hier.

    Monday, Emily Hutchins and Matt Morin, both assistant area wildlife managers, helped train in summer office staff member Jenna Wiersma, an NDSU student, in an office full of stacked plastic totes, an indication that a move is in process.

    “We need to be out of here by May 31, so it’s pretty hectic right now,” Morin said.

    As of now, Hutchins explained, she and Morin each report to Klemek, but it’s her understanding that the DNR will at some point advertise for an area wildlife manager.

    The Crookston and soon-to-be Erskine office oversees an area in northwest Minnesota comprised of 1.5 million acres of public and private land. That includes 52 wildlife management areas totaling 26,273 acres, one state waterfowl refuge, two state game refuges and one migratory bird-feeding and resting area.