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Bill Schuna’s balancing act with conserving natural resources and demands of society

Area wildlife manager for the Dept. of Natural Resources recognized by Ducks Unlimited as Minn. Conservation Partner of the Year

Submitted photo Ducks Unlimited’s Jon Schneider, left, presents Bill Schuna of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources with the DU Conservation Partner of the Year award on Feb. 8 in Willmar.

A Minnesota conservancy has expressed its appreciation to a state DNR employee.

Ducks Unlimited presented its Minnesota Conservation Partner of the Year award to Bill Schuna, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources area wildlife manager for Slayton and Talcot areas in southwest Minnesota.

The award was presented during the 2020 Minnesota State Convention on Feb. 8 in Willmar.

“Over the last 20 years, Bill has provided great local leadership and collaborative conservation partnerships to help us complete many Ducks Unlimited-MDNR projects in southwest Minnesota,” said Jon Schneider, director of conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited’s Living Lakes Initiative in Minnesota.

Schuna said he was “surprised” and “speechless” at the presentation.

“I was just doing my job,” he said.

“Bill’s current work area is the southern counties of Nobles, Rock, Pipestone, and Murray, but he lives in Marshall and formerly worked in the Marshall area in (Yellow Medicine), Lincoln and Lyon counties,” said Schneider.

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 14.5 million acres because of contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent.

With Schuna’s guidance, DU and the MDNR have completed nine public prairie and wetland acquisition or restoration projects totaling 1,550 acres since passage of the state’s Clean Water, Land & Legacy Amendment in 2008. Schuna helped with Ducks Unlimited’s largest public land acquisition project in the state to date, a 644-acre tract which became Swessinger Wildlife Management Area in Nobles County.

These projects are not possible without support and partnerships, said Schneider.

“Bill and his staff have provided excellent assistance to seed large areas back to native prairie plants and in working with private landowner neighbors and public stakeholders,” Schneider said. “He’s one of the most respectful and communicative partners we have the privilege to work with in Minnesota.”

Schuna likewise said he enjoys working with the Ducks Unlimited crew.

“The Ducks Unlimited staff is helpful and professional,” he said.

Collaboration is the way to go as far as getting things done, he said.

“You get more work done with partnerships,” he said.

Schuna works with Kent Schaap, the assistant wildlife area manager, and the staff at Talcot Lake, Judy Markl, assistant wildlife area manager, and Dennis Opdahl, Murray Soil and Water Conservation District and “seven seasonal staff at Telcot who help manage the land.”

Schuna has been with the DNR since August of 2000. He started as a CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) technician in Lincoln, Lyon and Yellow Medicine counties in Lyon Soil and Water Conservation until May of 2001 at which time he got the the wildlife area manager position in May of 2001. He lives in Marshall with his wife, Mary. Since April of 2013 he has worked out of the Slayton office as area wildlife manager.

“He’s critical in helping conservation efforts,” said Schneider. “He does a darn good job of balancing natural resource conservation with the demands of society.”

Schuna said Ducks Unlimited donated a parcel of land to the state and the DNR restored it planting a “diverse mix of polinator plantings.” There are over 300 species of grasses and flowers, he said, but vendors only have about 100 available for restoration.

“The more diverse you make it, the more resilient the system is,” he said. The research shows that diversity matters to polinator species and native animals.

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