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Offline Lee Borgersen

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MN Fisheries chief retires
« on: June 11, 2018, 12:42:21 PM »
 Don Pereira retires from post as Minnesota DNR’s Fisheries chief!

June 11, 2018  

 :reporter; ....
St. Paul — Don Pereira knew it wouldn’t be an easy job, but he still found running the state’s fisheries program rewarding. Pereira, chief of the Minnesota DNR’s Section of Fisheries for just shy of five years, said it was always his plan to do the job for about four to six years.

 :popcorn: ...
His pending retirement was made public last month, and he recently reflected on his career during a wide-ranging interview a week before his planned last day of work, June 8.

Pereira said he considered working longer, but his wife talked him out of that.

“My wife said, ‘No, you have a 15-year-old at home. It would be good to dial back on the stress level,’ ” he said.

Nobody who has followed some of the debate and decisions he faced the past few years would argue that Pereira hasn’t been on an increasingly hot seat, with issues such as Lake Mille Lacs, aquatic invasive species, and the Lake Superior rainbow trout program brewing and at times bubbling over.

As Vern Wagner, of Anglers for Habitat, put it, “The way politics are working in our natural resources agencies, you are not going to have a 20-year life expectancy (in) the fisheries chief position any more.”

Still, Pereira was at peace with the job he did.

“There are some things we got done that I wanted to get done,” he said.

Asked about those, he was careful not to take too much credit.

“We got things reformed up on Lake Superior with the Kamloops program, and getting (the French River) hatchery closed,” he said. “Those decisions are always tough. You’re always going to have some stakeholders, both internal and external, that it is going to be tough for them.”

Pereira mentioned the recently changed northern pike regulations, which some argue took decades to change, and changes to the Accelerated Walleye Program, where the DNR analyzed its stocking program to make changes it says will create a more efficient stocking program, more judiciously using fingerlings over fry.

“A lot of it had its basis even before I arrived at this position,” he said.

He mentioned Mille Lacs, but cautiously! :whistling: :pouty:

“Mille Lacs was a tough beast (to deal with),” he said. “It will be tough training-087 for a while. :moon: I won’t say I am proud of Mille Lacs, but I will say I was glad to help out there and lessen some of the stress, anyway.” :doofus: :tut:

Pereira mentioned shepherding the section through a period of reduced budgets and staff reductions, and it appears that section has about 270 full-time employees. A press release that announced his hire in 2013 said there were 290 employees at the time, and Pereira said he fought to keep those positions and maintain that staffing level.

How stressful was the job?

“I mean, it’s not severe,” he said. “But it definitely is (stressful). You are carrying a pretty big weight. You know, the problem with this profession is that you have far more people that support what you do than don’t support you, but you don’t hear from that silent majority. You just hear from the ones that are upset about something. … I knew it was going to be that way. It’s just kind of a low-level background pressure or stress that is always there because it’s a big job.”

Pereira said he wouldn’t have done much differently. He recalls a faculty position he almost took, but was edged out for, in the late 1990s.

“In hindsight, I’m glad that kind of happened because I think my career here took a path that was pretty cool,” he said. “It was pretty rewarding even though the chief’s job is pretty stressful. When you can help the team really cross the finish line on some big things, it is pretty gratifying.”

Pereira brought 30-plus years of fisheries research experience to the position. Stepping away from hands-on involvement in research wasn’t easy.

“I missed it, but at the same time I was able to see the fruits of having a really good science-based organization allow us to make some badly needed changes,” he said.

Talk with any of the active angler-conservationists that worked closely with Pereira, and that’s what usually is first mentioned about him, almost universally. All of the people interviewed for this story said they liked him, personally, even if they didn’t agree with him all of the time. Some of them even publicly argued with Pereira at committee meetings or at DNR roundtable events.

“His strengths were on the biological side,” said Tom Neustrom, a Grand Rapids fishing guide who participates on several DNR advisory committees, including the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee. Those meetings likely were the most challenging for Pereira. “Don had other sides to him. He was a fisherman. … But he would not portray it. He always wore his fisheries biology hat. I respected him for what he was, but he wasn’t always well-received.”

John Underhill, of the Minnesota Pike and Muskie Alliance, noted a few disagreements with Pereira, but said he always respected him.

“There was never anything big,” he said. “Like some of the discussions with northern pike management, the new zone regs. That was many years in the making, and we didn’t always agree on how it should be done.”

Dave Zentner, of Duluth, a steelhead angler and longtime conservationist, said he respected Pereira for the way he took responsibility for the agency’s decision to close the French River hatchery and end the Kamloops rainbow trout program.

“He said, the buck stops with me,” Zentner said. “He didn’t hide behind (Lake Superior program manager) Cory Goldsworthy. He said it was a tough decision, and if you want to be mad at someone, be mad at me.”

Zentner said he has worked with about six or seven DNR fisheries chiefs over the years, and noted that there have been more placid times for the position.

“These days, you can age 25 years in a couple of years (in the position),” he said. “We’re supposed to be Minnesota Nice. That doesn’t mean we can’t have vigorous debate or we have to give up passion, or we can’t disagree with the DNR.”

Added DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr: “Fishing is so important in Minnesota. (The chief’s position) is a tough gig. It has always been a tough gig, even without Mille Lacs. You have to be committed and dedicated. I think he did an amazing job. He is an extraordinary fisheries biologist, nationally recognized. He was able to take complex science and make it understandable. He was absolutely dedicated to the resource.”

Pereira doesn’t plan on stepping entirely away from the profession. He said he would take on more involvement with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, to which he was appointed as a commissioner in 2014 by President Obama. And he recently was asked to take a seat on the Minnesota Sea Grant advisory board. He also plans to be more active at the University of Minnesota, where he has been an adjunct professor.

“I have had no time for that in the past four to six years,” he said.

Pereira will be taking an increased role as president of the South Washington Watershed District, where he’s now president after serving as a board member for several years.

He also mentioned the possibility of some part-time work in the private sector.

“I still really, really enjoy my profession,” he said. “I want to stay active, and it looks like I will be able to do that.”
« Last Edit: June 11, 2018, 12:50:20 PM by Lee Borgersen »
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