AUSTIN EDITION DNR cuts 108 jobs; park time

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is cutting 108 jobs to solve a $13.1 million budget problem, Deputy Commissioner Steve Morse said.

The state agency also plans to reduce camping in some state parks after Labor Day, to cut timber sales and to drop next year's academy for new conservation officers.

"It's gut-wrenching," Morse said on Thursday. "It really is for this agency."

The Legislature cut $5.5 million from the DNR budget this year. Then, the agency was told in late June to trim another $7.7 million as part of a $58 million general fund cutback for various state agencies.


Statewide, the reduction, which amounts to almost 5 percent of the agency's staff, includes 69 existing vacancies. Layoff notices for 39 positions will go out Aug. 12. It's still unclear how many people will accept early-retirement incentives.

The trims could be followed by another round of cuts during the next budget cycle, Morse said.

The DNR forestry division will take the biggest hit, losing $2.3 million, including 33 staff positions. Less timber will be offered for sale, and many private forest management plans will be delayed.

The Parks and Recreation Division is being cut $1.7 million, with a host of seasonal workers being forced to end work early. Camping will be reduced at more than a dozen parks, which will be identified next week.

Seven field conservation officer positions will be left vacant. With minimal funding for new hires, Morse said the division will not run its enforcement academy next year.

Other cutbacks include reductions in statewide stream protection and lake monitoring and research efforts.

Along with other agencies, the DNR is preparing for an expected budget shortfall in the 2004-05 fiscal year. The options include a 10 percent budget reduction, which would mean $30 million in cuts for each of the next two years.

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