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2017 Conservationist of the Year – Arnold Krueger
Each year, Le Sueur County Soil and Water Conservation District nominates an exceptional conservationist that continuously goes above and beyond in their efforts to ensure healthy soil, water, and wildlife for future generations. This year, Arnie Krueger of rural Le Center received the award and it was clear within a few minutes of meeting Krueger that he was a perfect nomination. He stands out in the community for all he has done for conservation, not only with wetland restorations but also for wildlife and research.
Krueger was born and raised in Aberdeen, South Dakota in 1926. He began his passion for wildlife early in his childhood through hunting with his father and raising ducks and chickens in his backyard. Starting in the 1960s, he began carving and painting duck decoys that he would use when hunting. Over the years, he has made hundreds of decoys for himself and his friends.
Ever since Krueger was a child, he has also had a passion for music. His mother sparked his passion by influencing him to pursue singing and playing instruments. Krueger majored in music education at Northern State University in Aberdeen, SD and later earned a master’s degree at the MacPhail School of Music in Minneapolis. He became a full-time orchestra director at Owatonna High School and later part-time teaching elementary music, teaching for 50 years. He has been inducted into the Minnesota Music Educators Association Hall of Fame in 1994 and was also honored as a Distinguished Alumni by Northern State University in that same year. Krueger also played violin in the Mankato Symphony for several years.
In 1972, Krueger purchased his rural Le Center property, which he later turned into a wildlife haven. Today, the 230 acres of land serves as a waterfowl and wildlife sanctuary and contains a 45 acre marsh and adjoining ponds. Many wood ducks and mergansers began to visit Krueger’s property and he began building wood duck boxes. Currently there are nearly 60 wood duck boxes scattered throughout his property. In 1990 Krueger enrolled the wetland area into a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permanent easement program. He later enrolled the uplands of his restoration into a permanent Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) easement program in 2015. Since the 1990’s, has been working with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Soil and Water Conservation District to improve his farm for ducks.
At first, Krueger worked with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to research the wood ducks that resided on his land. Later, he and former biologist Larry Thomforde worked together to study wood duck behaviors and nesting habits. Thomforde first met Krueger in the early 1970s when he stumbled upon one of Krueger’s decoys and drove to meet him in hopes of purchasing one. Although none of them were for sale, years later Thomforde reached out asking to help with research and the pair have worked together ever since. Krueger stated that Thomforde helped instigate a lot of the research. Each spring, Krueger and Thomforde band the incubating hens and check the boxes about once a week to determine success rate of the eggs, the percentage of returning hens, and what the ducks need to successfully hatch their eggs. This winter, they plan on putting all of their research and statistics into a report.
Krueger has done a lot to conserve the land and to provide critical habitat for animals. He explained that conservation is important because in today’s world, things are done primarily for human benefit with little to no regard for animal life. Krueger wanted to create a place in the world that was for the animals, not for human use. Krueger stated, “everything I do is for the animals.” His love and appreciation for wildlife along with his hard work has allowed his land to be filled with many types of creatures that use the area as a home.
Krueger expressed his gratitude for his neighbors and gives them a lot of credit for helping him protect the land. “My philosophy is foreign to a lot of people in the area but is accepted by my closest neighbors. They are almost like game wardens, they look out for me and my land,” he stated. “They appreciate what I am doing and I owe them a lot. I really appreciate them.”
Because of his waterfowl conservation efforts, in 2013 Krueger was added to the Minnesota Waterfowl Hall of Fame. He still continues to work hard to conserve wildlife and critical habitat and is an inspiration for others. Krueger serves as a great example of how much landowners can do to make a positive impact on the environment.
Written by: Becky Picha
Krueger and Thomforde banding a wood duck and counting the number of eggs that were laid
Krueger displaying part of his collection of duck decoy carvings
Le Sueur County Soil and Water Conservation District