New NDG&F deputy director DeKrey talks to MDN

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department announced Monday, Jan. 7, that Duane DeKrey had been appointed Deputy Director of the department by Director Terry Steinwand. DeKrey actually began his post Jan. 1, replacing Roger Rostvet. Rostvet retired last June.

DeKrey is a native of Pettibone. The longtime farmer and legislator had never before served on the Game and Fish Department staff. In making the announcement, Steinwand said, “During my search for a deputy, I was looking for an individual who would work with me to address challenges into the future.”

Via e-mail, The Minot Daily News recently submitted a series of questions to DeKrey concerning his new position and various views about his new duties. Those questions and DeKrey’s responses, edited only for newspaper style, follow.

MDN – For what reasons do you feel you were chosen for the position of Deputy Director?

DeKrey – My experience with the Legislature and knowledge of public policy and how it comes about. My ability to communicate with and relate to the (agricultural) community, not as individual farmers but at the policy level. Director Steinwand wants to foster closer ties with the ag community for the benefit of them and the North Dakota sportsman whenever possible. I believe that the two groups have more in common than they think and part of my job will be to build trust, communication and mutual respect between the two groups.

MDN – What do you believe to be the major issues facing Game and Fish today and in the future?

DeKrey – Habitat. In 2006 we had about 3.2 million acres in N.D. of CRP (conservation reserve program land). That is projected to go to 600,000 by 2017. That is an 80 percent loss. Since N.D. is no different than most Upper Midwestern states, in that the vast majority of that land is held privately, we will need to look to N.D. landowners to come up with ways to keep good opportunities for N.D. sportsman. The last 20-plus years have, in a lot of ways, been the golden age of hunting and fishing in N.D. That has been driven by CRP to a large extent, and many more wet years than dry years. We are stocking and managing more lakes in North Dakota than at any time in my memory.

MDN – What response do you have to those who prefer that a wildlife biologist hold the position of Deputy Director?

DeKrey – I totally understand and respect that. I also respect that Director Steinwand has the right to hire whoever he wants to be his deputy. I have worked with four different directors, Terry isn’t second to any of them. If you don’t trust or like me, remember who I work for. Terry has earned your trust and respect, and his decision should be accepted.

MDN – You have 20 years in the N.D. legislature. How will that experience be helpful in your new position?

DeKrey – I am totally comfortable in that environment and know who the players are and how they operate. I have

a pretty good sixth sense about what objectives are possible and who to go to, in the policy arena, to get work done. I have personal relationships with most of the legislators and lobbyists. Most issues brought before the legislature are not new, and I have 20 years of experience collectively in both chambers to draw from.

MDN – What do you add to the Game and Fish Department?

DeKrey – A fresh perspective. I am not an insider. I have life experience in the private as well as public sector and understand the conflicts that can arise when the two are on the same or opposite sides. I have 20 years of experience in working through these conflicts and arriving at consensus.

MDN – What is your connection to the outdoors today? Hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, birdwatching?

DeKrey – I hunt white-tail deer. Fifteen years ago I placed all of my farmland in CRP and continued to ranch for another 10 years. Five years ago I re-enrolled my CRP, just pulling enough acres out to plant some trees on it. I took a (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) grassland easement on some of my pasture.

In all the years I farmed and ranched, I posted my land one year after a particularly bad deer season, and never have turned anyone away that has asked to hunt. I have been in the department’s doe hunting program every year that I have been asked. I may have joined ag organizations (my profession) the way some people join conservation and hunting groups (their passion), but I understand the balance that’s required to make a living off the land but also enjoy what you like to do – in this case, hunting.

MDN – Do you have a message for N.D. sportsmen or landowners?

DeKrey – You need not fear me. The same ability and work ethic I brought to representing my legislative district, I will bring to the department. I know what the mission of the department is and I know who I work for. Landowners, you have a seat at the table. Although I don’t view that as my purpose at the department, it’s what I did for 30 years and it is just part of who I am.