DNR, Wildlife Center butt heads over lease in Columbus
Executive Director Peggy Callahan and her fellow workers at the Wildlife Science Center in Columbus are unsure of their next steps after receiving a letter from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources terminating the center’s lease on DNR property in the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area.
The Jan. 5 letter, from the DNR’s Lands and Minerals Division, alleges that WSC is not following its lease agreements and gives the center until July 15 to either come into accordance with the lease provisions or move its operations and almost 100 animals off-site.
In the letter to WSC, the DNR alleges that the center has violated the lease in five broad areas, including late rental payment, using the property for non-approved uses, failure to maintain the property, making unauthorized modifications to the property and subleasing the property. Callahan told The Forest Lake Times that most of the allegations in the letter are false or gross mischaracterizations, adding her belief that the DNR is changing the way it deals with her and the center in an attempt to force them off of the land and add it to the existing nearby DNR complex. Currently, the land on which the center sits is directly northwest of a few DNR buildings; to get to WSC, visitors must drive through the DNR facilities.