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Craig Engwall

Engwall poses with a harvested white tail buck. Craig Engwall’s life, both personally and professionally, has been tied to natural resources in one form or another. Today, Engwall lives in a 104-year-old log cabin on 57 acres of forestland on the Chippewa National Forest in northern Minnesota, land which has been in his family since 1949. “One of my pine plantations was planted by my grandpa the year I was born,” Engwall shares. As a private landowner, Engwall manages his woods – which he describes as “a classic northern Minnesota forest” – with the help of a forest management plan. He has placed his land, which abuts a wild rice lake, into a forest conservation easement meant to protect this important riparian area. “I was always very interested in forestry because of this personal background,” Engwall says.

Attending Gustavus Adolphus College in 1982, Engwall pursued degrees in Scandinavian studies and geography. “My Swedish heritage won out over my desire to study natural resources,” Engwall jokes, revealing that he’d been considering schools in Alaska and Montana before choosing Gustavus. After graduating in 1986, Engwall served as a legislative aide to U.S. Senator David Durenberger in Washington, D.C., advising the Senator on natural resource, environmental, and agricultural issues. Returning to the Twin Cities to attend law school at the University of Minnesota in 1988, Engwall did everything he could to remain tied to environmental work. After completing law school, Engwall decided to clerk for a year in Anchorage for a judge on the Alaska Supreme Court, fulfilling his dream of experiencing America’s 49th state.

In the following two decades, Engwall’s passion for natural resources continued to intersect with his work as a lawyer. In 1995, Engwall became Minnesota’s Assistant Attorney General, representing all divisions of the DNR and serving as general counsel to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Board of Water and Soil Resources, and the Board of Animal Health. After eight years in this position, Engwall took on a new role, serving as Special Assistant to the DNR’s Commissioner, where he acted as Tribal Liaison to Minnesota’s 11 tribal nations. Two years later, in 2006, Engwall became Northeast Regional Director and Attorney for the DNR, overseeing and managing over 3 million acres of state land, including 20 state parks. Today, Engwall serves as the Executive Director for the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA), which, as an avid deer hunter, he describes as a natural fit. “I always wanted to go into natural resources,” Engwall says. “I took a curious path, but I was able to do it.”

Looking back over his career, Engwall is especially proud of his role negotiating the Upper Mississippi-UPM Forestry Legacy Project, a conservation easement with Blandin Forestry, one of the largest private forest owners in Minnesota. The resulting 44-million-dollar project was massive and brought together numerous partners to protect over 187,000 acres of land. “Projects that big don’t happen anymore,” Engwall says, noting the importance of the support of the conservation community. Following this easement, every acre owned by Blandin is protected in perpetuity, assuring that these acres remain well-managed forestlands for generations to come. “This was an immense project with tremendous long-term benefits for both the forest industry and habitat conservation,” Engwall says. For his work on this project, Engwall was awarded The Nature Conservancy’s Government Relations Award in Leadership in 2009.

In 2019, Engwall joined the Minnesota Forest Resources Council as the game species management organizations representative. As Chair of the Policy Information Committee, Engwall sees the Council as a tremendous resource for policymakers. “It’s important for the Council to be ready to address forestry issues,” Engwall says. “We bring together a broad array of interests and create consensus – which should get policymakers’ attention.” At the forefront of Engwall’s mind is climate change and the ways in which forests can help mitigate warming through carbon storage and sequestration. “The Council can serve a huge purpose by making a difference in how the state approaches climate change and other issues of the day,” Engwall says. “Forestry is a big part of that equation.”

To connect with Council member Craig Engwall, contact him at The Minnesota Forest Resources Council exists to support and advocate for Minnesotans like you! Please join us for our bimonthly public meetings, with Zoom links available via  our calendar . We hope to see you there.

Engwall with his father and a harvested white tail deer.
Engwall hunting at Dora Lake with his father Richard,
who passed in 2017.

Engwall poses in front of logging equipment.
Engwall having thinning work done on the red pines
planted by his grandpa.
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