After nearly 40 years with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, the last 15 years serving as director, Terry Steinwand has decided to retire at the end of July. Steinwand recently reflected on his career with the department.

Steinwand on his career path to becoming Game and Fish director.

I started out as a Garrison Diversion fisheries biologist. I managed the canal lakes and a few other lakes around central North Dakota. Primarily worked in biota transfer issues. In 1990, the chief of fisheries job came open. I applied for that and was fortunate enough to have the title for 15 years. When the director’s position came open after Dean Hildebrand retired, I was actually asked to apply for it by the governor’s office, and I applied for it and was appointed.

Terry Steinwand, North Dakota Game and Fish Department director. (Photo/ N.D. Game and Fish Department)
Terry Steinwand, North Dakota Game and Fish Department director. (Photo/ N.D. Game and Fish Department)

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What comes to mind when asked about North Dakota's outdoor resources?

They change constantly. We can go from boom to bust in a really big hurry. When I took over as fisheries division chief, we were in the middle of a drought. And, of course, not having a whole lot of water on the landscape, our fisheries weren't doing very well. With 185 lakes and some of those pretty shallow at that point in time, we were pushing just trying to keep some recreational fisheries in those lakes.

Fast forward to 2006 when I became director. We were actually in the middle of a wet cycle and there were 3.2 million acres of CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) on the landscape and we were really ramping up on the recreational fishing side of things, but even more so on birds, pheasants, grouse, whitetail deer … they were doing fantastic, so we were really seeing some tremendous hunting and fishing during that point in time.

Since then, we’ve lost about 2 million acres of CRP and we’ve seen other challenges associated with managing the resource or producing that resource. Fisheries have continued to really climb, though; the fisheries guys have done a tremendous job. Over 400 lakes managed for recreational fisheries right now, and I can’t think of one that’s not a great fishery at this point in time.

And of course, our wildlife division has done a tremendous job of working our way back from a pretty low point in deer numbers. But again, one bad winter can set us back. We still need to continue working on the habitat issues.

On dedicating his whole career to the outdoors.

I got into this field because I love to hunt and fish. Everybody who buys a license likes to hunt and fish and enjoy the outdoors. And I’m proud of that. I’m proud to be part of the process, part of the team, part of that whole community that provides opportunity. I want everybody’s kids and grandkids to enjoy what I've had the opportunity to enjoy. And if we can make it better, then we should make it better.

On what’s next.

Once my boat is fixed, I’m going fishing. And when fall comes around, I'm going hunting. But I'm going to miss the people and I’m going to have to stay busy. And I have four grandkids from 1 to 5, not very old yet, and I want them to have the same love of the outdoors that I gained. Granted, I had a little different upbringing on a farm and was able to do stuff that they aren’t able to do right now. But I want to give them that opportunity. Let’s go out shore-fishing at a little lake here. Let’s go walk in the pasture. I want to show them what I was able to do as a kid.

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Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at dleier@nd.gov.

Doug Leier
Doug Leier