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Citizen Conservationist of the Year

Saturday, Feb. 5 was a memorable day for Detroit Lakes' Harlen Hendrickson.

That was the day the Minnesota Waterfowl Association presented him with the Citizen Conservationist of the Year Award, during the MWA's annual Awards and Waterfowl Hall of Fame Banquet in Bloomington, Minn.

The award is given to a public citizen or lay person who has demonstrated a significant commitment to Minnesota's wetland environments, waterfowl, and wetland wildlife through exceptional leadership and personal commitment.

"This was a big deal to me," Hendrickson admitted. "It's a great honor."

Hendrickson lives about nine miles north of Detroit Lakes on a 150-acre farm. He has been involved in conservation work since he left Dynamic Homes in the 1990s, after 17 years there as a heavy equipment and crane operator.

Though he was always an avid hunter and sportsman, Hendrickson became a full-time conservationist through his work with MWA, as the founder of its West Central Waterfowler's Chapter.

"When I founded the chapter in 2000, I started doing wildlife food plots," he recalled. "Earl Johnson from the DNR got hold of me and said they had received a $40,000 grant from the Outdoor Heritage Fund (established through the Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment) for conservation seeding.

"He was wondering if I would do some seeding at the Hubbel Pond Refuge (located just south of the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge)."

Since then, the West Central Waterfowler's Chapter of MWA has done about $60,000 worth of work in the Hubbel Pond Dam area, Hendrickson added.

The chapter has been involved in many other habitat projects in the area as well, including building wood duck houses for kids at the Becker County Fair, wetland and prairie restorations, and acquiring land for public hunting.

Hendrickson has also made a commitment to wetlands and waterfowl on his own property, where he has restored many acres of wetlands and prairie.

Though Hendrickson and his wife Mary do not have children of their own, they enjoy having 12- and 13-year-olds come out to their property every year for Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day.

"It's phenomenal," he said of the annual event. "We have three to four families that come out every year."

His business, Cro's Custom Services, is also dedicated to conservation. He specializes in native grass plantings for landowners who enroll their land into programs like the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Reinvest in Minnesota Wetland Reserve Program.

"I've seeded over 4,000 CRP acres since I've been in business," he said.

"I also enrolled 130 acres of my own land in WRP (Wetland Reserve Program)," he said. "That's a big thing."

Essentially, what that means is he can't farm or build structures on that land during his lifetime, Hendrickson explained.

Though programs such as WRP and CRP aren't right for every farmer, he added, it's something that anyone who has marginal farmland -- not ideal for raising crops because it is too wet -- might consider as an option.

"I think there are farmers out there who can benefit from this," he added.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454