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North Dakota Outdoors: Working hard for fish, wildlife of ND

Submitted Photo Jeb Williams, current Game and Fish director, recently acknowledged employees at the yearly staff meeting with recognition for their work. Photo from NDGF.

Dean Hildebrand, former Game and Fish director, had a flair for telling stories. Dr. Seuss could’ve taken notes. “When I lived in Kulm, it was so dry the ducks carried canteens … I played cops and robbers with a young girl that always won. Turns out, it was Angie Dickinson.” (If you don’t know her, look her up.)

When the inevitable questions of managing North Dakota’s fish and wildlife (were asked) he acknowledged the drive and professionalism of his staff and was quick to point out, “There’s three things everyone in North Dakota thinks they could do: coach the basketball team better than the current, manage the cafe and run the Game and Fish Department.”

His point is the people working for North Dakota Game and Fish love the fish, wildlife and habitat they are charged with managing. They make the choices and decisions with a vested interest.

Jeb Williams, current Game and Fish director, recently acknowledged employees at the yearly staff meeting with recognition for their work.

Dr. Charlie Bahnson, wildlife veterinarian for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck, received the agency’s Director’s Award for professional excellence at the department’s annual staff meeting in December.

“His expertise and knowledge of the issues are continuously expanding. He is an instrumental participant in many state and nationwide working groups pertaining to wildlife health and disease,” Williams said. “Charlie spends countless hours collaborating with other agencies, such as the Board of Animal Health, and educating staff, the public and legislators on wildlife issues, including chronic wasting disease, epizootic hemorrhagic disease and avian influenza. He spearheaded a task force to revise our CWD management plan which will guide big game management into the future. In addition, he is one of the few wildlife veterinarians in the nation who is certified to surgically implant cellular GPS transmitters in birds to learn more about their natural movements. He successfully implemented these implants in mallards and in 2023, pintails.”

Jonathan Tofteland, North Dakota Game and Fish Department district game warden in Bottineau, is the state’s 2023 Wildlife Officer of the Year. Tofteland was honored recently by Shikar-Safari Club International, a private conservation organization that annually recognizes outstanding wildlife officers in each state.

Chief warden Scott Winkelman said Tofteland’s district includes the Lake Metigoshe area along with the rest of Bottineau County and the Turtle Mountains.

“Warden Tofteland patrols by vehicle, boat, ATV and snowmobile to accomplish his enforcement goals in all four seasons. He has assumed extra duties, such as taser instructor, and has proven his dedication to his chosen profession by serving as treasurer on the North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association Museum board,” Winkelman said. “He has a tremendous grasp of the area within his district, the landowners therein and the natural resources that he is sworn to protect. Warden Tofteland is always willing to assist neighboring wardens with any investigations.”

Lisa Tofte, administrative assistant, Devils Lake, was recognized for her positive attitude, professionalism, knowledge and service to the public.

Alegra Powers, wildlife division administrative assistant, Bismarck, was recognized for her willingness to help, knowledge within the department, and her customer service with landowners and hunters.

Jim Houston, wildlife biological technician, Bismarck, was recognized for his efforts in spearheading the department’s turkey trapping operation.

Melissa Long, administrative officer, Bismarck, was recognized for her knowledge of state government, accounting, human resources and legislation.

Alan Reile, technical operations lead, Bismarck, was recognized for his knowledge, attitude, commitment and dedication to his job and colleagues.

Justen Barstad, fisheries biological technician, Bismarck, was recognized for his work ethic, positive attitude, mechanical skills and field expertise.

Cayla Bendel, R3 coordinator, Bismarck, was recognized for her outreach efforts with media, social media and marketing.

District game wardens Mike Sedlacek, Fargo; Erik Schmidt, Linton; James Myhre, New Rockford; Shawn Sperling, Minot; Ken Skuza, Riverdale; Keenan Snyder, Williston; Courtney Springer, Elgin; Zane Manhart, Golva; and investigator Blake Riewer, Grand Forks, were recognized for their efforts as field training officers for committing countless hours to training new wardens.

In addition, warden Sedlacek was named North Dakota’s Boating Officer of the Year. His district includes rivers, lakes and reservoirs in eastern North Dakota. Chief game warden Scott Winkelman said warden Sedlacek is experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated, makes good decisions and serves the citizens in an outstanding manner.

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