Karel takes the reins of area’s wildlife refuge

by Nathan Warner
Contributing writer

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Zimmerman has a new manager as of August.

Steve Karel, a 15-year veteran of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, took up the reins of former manager Anne Sittauer, who left earlier this year to accept the role of refuge supervisor for the North East Region, encompassing 13 states from Maine to Virginia and headquartered in Hadley, Mass.

Steve Karel

Prior to coming to the Sherburne Refuge, Karel was the deputy refuge manager of the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in central Kansas near Stafford and the assistant manager of Rainwater Basin Wetland Management District in Kearney, Neb. Both refuges were in the central flyway route for North American migratory waterfowl.

Karel says his first task as manager of Sherburne Refuge has been to evaluate and look at what has been done in Sherburne, and he cites his background for ideas about his method.

“I’ve always taken an aggressive approach at managing habitats to pre-settlement conditions,” he said, adding, “At Sherburne, for example, I am working towards significantly reducing the invasive cattail species in the wetlands to open up the marshes for more migratory bird use.”

Although Karel works out of the Sherburne headquarters, he is also manager of the Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge near Little Falls.

Karel currently lives west of Santiago with his wife, Becky, and their two children, Lukas and Brooklyn, who attend schools in Becker.

“We love Minnesota,” Karel said, adding that he and his family have always wanted to live here. “The people here are super friendly and we have a great staff at the refuge.”

Karel says Minnesota perfectly suits his personality and love of outdoors. “If it’s outdoors, I love it,” he laughed, “whether it’s hunting, fishing, snow skiing, camping or motorcycling. Minnesota is a great place to be for the interests of my family.”

Karel wants to encourage people in the community and the state to visit the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, and he hopes his management of it will help support that. “This refuge is a remarkable jewel in our own backyard, and I’d like to see people unplug more to get out and experience nature. It’s an amazing place.” Visit www.fws.gov/midwest/sherburne for more information on the refuge.