Protesters halt logging near Strawberry Lake

By Robert Williams


Ray Higgins, Executive Vice President of the Minnesota Timber Producers Association (MTPA), spoke to the Becker County Board about the importance of the availability of Becker County timber to its members and to give the MTPA’s support to the county after tribal protesters caused a Menagha logging company to halt operations near Strawberry Lake on Monday, May 13.

“Loggers in this part of the state rely on the timber here in Becker County,” said Higgins. “They’ve made business decisions; they’ve hired employees; they’ve borrowed money and made investments in their businesses, all with the thought that this timber would be a consistent, steady, reliable supply of timber that they can produce and deliver to mills and make products that we all use in our state.”

Higgins emphasized the importance of these companies on the economy of Becker County, citing a 2020 Economic Contributions of Agriculture and Forestry study.

Forestry produces 552 jobs making $26.8 million in income. There is an $80.7 million output generated. Revenue from timber sales reduces taxes paid by county residents.

“We’re putting people to work and we’re keeping forests healthy in this part of the state,” he said.”And we do it sustainably.”

Higgins stated there were 2.15 million acres of timberland created in the past 45 years in northern Minnesota.

The work near Strawberry Lake was done on tax-forfeited land within Becker County and the White Earth Reservation.

The White Earth Reservation Business Committee made a public statement on social media about its concerns about the lack of consultation from the county regarding timber sales on tax-forfeited lands within the reservation boundary.

Activist Winona LaDuke was on-hand for the protest and also made her concerns known via social media.

Sheriff Todd Glander stated the protester’s concerns were about cultural artifacts, a potential burial site and the logging of maple trees.

Some maples were removed to make room for operations as allowed by logging permit.

Glander said he spoke to both parties and was attempting to come up with a resolution when the logger decided to discontinue operations.

The logging permit for the Strawberry Lake site expires in October, according to Glander.

“I think there are a lot of unknowns as to what’s going to happen the next time,” said Glander. “There were people there who were willing to go to jail.”

According to Interim County Administrator Carrie Smith, the Tribe demands to be informed when logging operations are being done and that they have input.

Commissioner Barry Nelson stated there needs to be a reasonable reason to accommodate the Tribe, rather than what occurred.

“In my opinion, it was a grandstanding event that was made, not in an attempt to be cooperative, but to be antagonistic,” he said. “This was a planned attack that was inexcusable. If you want to truly work together this is not how you come to the county and say, hey we have a concern in this area.”

Pelican River Watershed District Board 

Rick Michaelson, President of the Pelican River Watershed District Board of Managers, and Board Manager Dennis Kral spoke on behalf of Orrin Okeson and Charlie Jasken, who are up for reappointment to the board.

Both men’s terms are up in May of 2024.

The board has hired new legal counsel and a new engineering firm to aid in updating the District’s rules and the Watershed’s new project near Campbell Creek and Campbell Lake.

The board consists of Michaelson and Kral, along with Vice President Laurie Olson, Secretary Chris Jasken, and Treasurer Phil Hansen.

“It is absolutely essential that we keep the continuity of the board as it is,” said Kral.

Birch Burdick, the newly elected President of the Melissa/Sallie Lake Association also spoke in favor of Okeson and Jasken.

Burdick complimented the harmonious working relationship of the current board members on behalf of his Lake Association.

The Board of Commissioners reappointed Okeson and Jasken unanimously.

More information on the Campbell Creek project can be found at

Drug Court

Becker County District Court Judge Gretchen Thilmony, Judge Michelle Lawson, Brian Rubenstein, the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) District Supervisor, along with Drug Court Coordinator Kristal Kadrie and DOC Agent Jodi Kulik recognized National Treatment Court Month in May.

The commissioner’s approval of the proclamation recognizes the significant contributions the Becker County Treatment Courts have made over the past 17 years toward reducing substance abuse, crime, and recidivism while at the same time, saving valuable resources.

Becker County joined in the support of treatment courts by implementing our Adult Drug Treatment Court in 2007, Becker County Veterans Court in September 2015, and our DWI Court in 2015. 

“To have all three major types of Treatment Courts in Becker County is a great accomplishment that should be recognized. These programs save lives and are a tremendous resource and support for the participants and their families,” said Rubenstein.

Judges Thilmony and Lawson, along with Kadrie all echoed how treatment courts save lives and money and asked for the board’s support, which was granted unanimously.

Chairman John Okeson and Commissioners Barry Nelson, David Meyer and Erica Jepson thanked the judges for their efforts.

“They do that because they believe in the program and because it helps people,” Nelson said.


The Board of County Commissioners authorized the purchase of 5.25 acres of property, in the amount of $40,453 from At Ease Properties, LLC, to construct a portion of the Heartland Trail along US Highway 10. 

County Administrator 

Liza Donabauer with DDA Human Resources updated the board on the 25 applicants to fill the county administrator position. Of the 25 applicants, 11 advanced to the next round of consideration with three of those 11 withdrawing to leave 8 candidates for the position.

The commissioners each voted for the top four candidates via ballot to invite three for final interviews with one alternate candidate should one of the three withdraw prior to interviewing.