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Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand announces his retirement

Terry Steinwand started his career with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in 1982 and was fisheries chief from 1990 through 2005. He has been at the helm of the department since Jan. 1, 2006.

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Terry Steinwand, director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, addresses sportsmen at a Game and Fish Advisory Board meeting in this undated photo. Steinwand is retiring as department director after a career of nearly 40 years with the agency. (Photo/ North Dakota Game and Fish Department)
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Terry Steinwand, director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, is retiring after a career of nearly 40 years with the department.

His last day on the job will be July 31.

Gov. Doug Burgum formally announced Steinwand’s retirement Monday, May 17. As with other departments in the governor’s cabinet, the Game and Fish director is a political appointee.

“I’ve been blessed with a tremendous personal and professional family, and the decision to retire was not an easy one, but it’s time to spend more time with family and hunting or fishing,” Steinwand said in a statement released Monday morning. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great people and some great governors, and I couldn’t ask for a better organization or group of people to work with than the ones I’ve had over the last 39 years. And there’s no better place to be than North Dakota.”

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A Garrison, N.D., native, Steinwand grew up on a grain and cattle farm and graduated from UND with a bachelor’s degree in fish and wildlife management and a master’s degree in biology.
Steinwand started his career with the Game and Fish Department in 1982 and was fisheries chief from 1990 through 2005. He has been at the helm of the department since Jan. 1, 2006, serving as Game and Fish director under Govs. John Hoeven, Jack Dalrymple and, most recently, Burgum.

As is traditional practice, the governor’s office will appoint an interim director and then begin a search for Steinwand’s replacement, Burgum said. It will be a national search.

“He had a fantastic career, and we’re glad he stayed (with Game and Fish) another couple of years to get us through another legislative session,” Burgum told the Grand Forks Herald.

Steinwand’s tenure as Game and Fish director coincided with dramatic changes in the hunting landscape and equally dramatic changes in fishing opportunities. In a May 2020 interview, Steinwand said the Game and Fish Department was managing about 185 lakes in 2005 when he left the fisheries division, a number that later swelled to as many as 450 lakes, driven by a series of wet years.

At the same time, wildlife habitat enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program declined from more than 3 million acres to just over 1 million acres by January 2020, with another 700,000 acres set to expire by 2023.

Fishing opportunities are better than ever, but the state’s hunting landscape is probably not as good as it was during the peak of CRP, Steinwand said in that interview.

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“We really were at a high point in 2006,” he said. “CRP acres were over 3 million, we’d had about four or five consecutive nice winters, and so our deer and our pheasant and grouse populations were really at a high point.

“Of course, we’ve lost a lot of CRP and had three consecutive nasty winters (beginning in 2009). We’re climbing out of that, but we consistently say it’s really hard to climb out very quickly when you don’t have the habitat.”

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Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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