OSAGE - For 36 years, Mitchell County Conservation Board Director Milt Owen has served as environmental steward and an advocate for outdoor education, hunting and conserving the land.

But now Owen will retire from the post. An open house for Owen will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 25, at the Mitchell County Nature Center west of Osage.

“I really feel blessed to have worked here in an area that has promoted and supported conservation,” said Owen.

“It was the people of Mitchell County who saw the big picture and now we see that the support of priorities and programs has paid off.”

Owen leaves a legacy of modernizing county parks, restoring a state park and constructing new campgrounds.

He also led efforts to restore the Mitchell Dam, construct new conservation headquarters just west of Osage, construct and expand the Mitchell County Nature Center, and for miles of new recreational trails and hundreds of acres of new conservation lands.

He partnered with conservation and wildlife groups and helped win hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and licenses to support conservation in Mitchell County, including the federal licensing for hydroelectric generation at the Mitchell Mill Dam.

“He’s a remarkable steward of our natural resources,” said Mitchell County Conservation Board Office Manager Claudia Lacour. “Mitchell County has really been a fortunate beneficiary of his leadership and his wisdom.”

Owen came to Mitchell County in 1976, following graduation from the University of Montana where he earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology.

“In 1976, the conservation headquarters was a Quonset hut located at 415 Lime Kiln Road in Osage,” said Owen. “We just had the one building and a full-time employee. Things have sure changed.”

During Owen’s time, Mitchell County Conservation took over the maintenance and modernization of county parks, adding water, electricity, bathrooms and new facilities to each.

In addition, Owen and employees have planted more than 500,000 trees and acquired 1,500 acres for wildlife habitat for Mitchell County.

Owen has been active in Pheasants Forever for more than over 30 years and currently serves on the organization’s state council. In 2010, he was inducted into the Iowa Pheasants Forever Hall of Fame for his leadership and contributions to wildlife habitat. Owen has also received numerous other honors.

Owen said he has fond memories of his experiences with youth.

He recalled the time he took a group to camp overnight at Pioneer Park near the Brownville Wildlife area.

“We were going on a night hike down to the New Haven Potholes, and I wanted to teach them that they could navigate in the dark, so I wouldn’t let any of the kids take flashlights.”

“We were walking the trail through the trees and came to an opening where there was about 50 to 60 acres of open ground — and the place was entirely lit up by what must have been thousands of lightning bugs,” he said.

“The kids were stopped in their tracks and seemed awestruck by the sight.

“I remember one little boy near me saying, ‘Wow, it’s just like New York City.’ ”

David Namanny is the editor of the Mtichell County Press-News, another Lee Enterprises newspaper.





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