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Fulfilling his life's dream

OTTER TAIL COUNTY NATIVE BLANE KLEMEK is the new area wildlife supervisor for the Detroit Lakes office of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. He and his family live near Itasca State Park, but hope eventually to make the move to DL.

Though he grew up on a dairy farm in Otter Tail County, Blane Klemek's "life dream" was to find a career in wildlife and natural resource management.

"My love of wildlife is where it all stemmed from," he said. "I had to be outside -- hunting, fishing and camping. The outdoors is really my identity."

After graduating from the University of North Dakota with a master's degree in wildlife biology, Klemek realized that dream when he took a job with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as a private land specialist in its wildlife section.

"I wrote forest stewardship plans for private landowners," he said.

In other words, he worked with private landowners on managing their property for the benefit of wildlife.

"My area was Region 1, which includes counties from the northwest corner of the state all the way down to Alexandria," he said.

After three years in that position, Klemek became the assistant area wildlife manager at the DNR's Bemidji office, covering the counties of Clearwater, Beltrami and Hubbard.

He stayed in that position from July 2005 until Sept. 27, 2011.

On Sept. 28, he started his new job as the area wildlife supervisor for the DNR's Detroit Lakes office.

"We cover Norman, Mahnomen and the western half of Becker County," Klemek said. "That includes 45 wildlife management areas, and about 26,000 acres."

Much of Klemek's work in the area of wildlife habitats and wildlife management includes collaborating with government agencies such as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, area Soil & Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs), the White Earth Reservation natural resources department and local watershed districts.

"Many of our wetland restoration projects would require partnership with the watershed districts," Klemek said.

In addition, the DNR collaborates with non-profit organizations such as the Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society, Ducks Unlimited, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, National Wild Turkey Federation, Ruffed Grouse Society and local sportsmen's clubs on various wildlife habitat projects, including land acquisition for public hunting lands.

"The Clean Water, Land & Legacy Amendment has helped a great deal in our ability to better manage public lands," Klemek said.

This amendment, approved by Minnesota voters in November 2008, sets aside 3/8 of 1 percent of the state's sales tax for projects dealing with water and land conservation as well as history, arts and cultural heritage preservation.

"These monies aren't replacing our game and fish dollars, but they are enhancing what we do," Klemek said. "We work with our partners, who apply for grants through the Clean Water, Land & Legacy amendment for habitat projects. It's bringing all the players to the table.

"It was a wonderful thing the voters approved in 2008," he added.

Some of Klemek's other duties include brush land habitat maintenance and management of area wildlife populations.

One of the things he enjoys most about working in the Detroit Lakes area is its biological diversity.

"You can be in the prairie one minute, and forest the next," he said, adding that this biological diversity brings with it many opportunities for seeing a variety of birds and other wildlife species.

"It's been my life dream," Klemek said of his work with the DNR. "Even as a boy, I knew what I wanted to do."

When he's not working, Klemek said, you can probably find him enjoying various outdoor activities, or spending time with his family.

"I have a wife, JoEllen, and two kids -- a girl, Emily and a boy, Nidhal -- who are both in high school (at Bemidji)," he said.

Though they eventually plan to move to the Detroit Lakes area, Klemek said that for the time being, they still make their home near Itasca State Park.

"We're looking to move here sometime down the road," he said. "This is a really beautiful area."

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