by Debbie Griffin
The Friends of the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge elected in January new president Myrna Krueger, who said she’s been enjoying the work mostly because her fellow Friends are “dedicated and involved” with good ideas.
Krueger said her first volunteer activity at the refuge, located near Zimmerman, was as a seed collector, which she still does with a big group of other volunteers. She delights in the unrestricted access to remote corners of the refuge that most people never get to see. The seed-collector volunteers go out in the spring and place flags near the stands of desirable native plants and then go back in late summer to collect seeds after the flagged plants have produced them.
She said hours go by like minutes, and it’s nice being outside in a pretty place and usually with a not-difficult, positive mission to pursue.
“I feel like a little kid out there playing on the prairie,” she said.
She got to know the refuge even better when her daughter, Helena Keller, filled an interim position on the Friends board during her senior year in high school.
“And when Helena went to college, they recruited me,” Krueger said.
Though not a birder per se, Krueger enjoys birds, such as hearing a loon’s call on a morning walk and seeing sand hill cranes in and around the refuge. She often carries binoculars while hiking so she doesn’t miss any highlights in the distance.
Krueger noted that people do not need be a member of the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge Friends group to be a refuge volunteer.
Krueger attended as a board member the Friends Academy, which she said laid a great foundation for group leadership. She gathered with volunteers from 25 other Friends’ organizations and participated in a dayslong workshop facilitated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which coordinates the approximately 200 Friends organizations. She said it was a great morning-to-night learning experience.
Krueger said she’s coming to the Friends group at an exciting time. The organization worked long and hard to help make the Oak Savannah Learning Center a reality, and members are thrilled to now be seeing hundreds of school children per year visit the facility to learn more about nature.
She’s been pleased to work with the pioneering principal of Zimmerman Elementary School, Gretchen Fisher, who helped implement the Expedition Model of learning. Kids come to the refuge and refuge volunteers come to schools.
“We’re really trying to embed that naturalist mindset,” she said.
The Friends group and its president are enthusiastic about inspiring the next generation to also have a passion for nature. Otherwise, ponders Krueger, who will preserve things such as the refuge after the current generations are gone?
Krueger was pleased to know that a group of college kids from around the country had been at the learning center last week for a national training program. Now the college students will be dispatched as interns at various wildlife refuge facilities in the country.
Since January, the organization has been developing a strategic plan. As part of that effort, the Friends group sent out surveys that got “great response” and then it identified four main pillars of the Friends’ organization: education, advocacy, volunteerism and sustainability.
Krueger moved to Elk River in 2004 and lives there with her husband, Florian Keller. She grew up on a farm near Grand Forks, North Dakota, and has worked in the agriculture industry for most of her career. She began working at the University of Minnesota Extension and has spent many years coordinating advertising and marketing materials for the ag industry at the Broadhead agency in Minneapolis.
“Conservation and agriculture go hand in hand,” she said and adds that the planning and organization tasks of her job have prepared her well for the current Friends role.