Lynn Rogers' quest to regain his permit to conduct research on northern Minnesota bears has brought him to a St. Paul courtroom this week.
The Star Tribune reports an administrative law judge is hearing arguments as part of a settlement in a lawsuit Rogers filed last year after the Department of Natural Resources declined to renew his research permit.
Rogers, who heads the North American Bear Center in Ely, has gained popularity and garnered criticism for research methods that include hand feeding of bears. Rogers uses the feeding to get close enough to bears to collar them with tracking devices.
As the Star Tribune notes, the DNR maintains the feeding has caused the bears to see humans as a source of food, thereby endangering the public. The agency also argues that Rogers has failed to publish enough scientific research to justify his permit.
The Pioneer Press reports Rogers' attorney says the DNR is bent on tearing down his client in retribution over past disagreements. He also argues Rogers does not need the DNR's permission to put radio collars on bears.
The Pioneer Press says DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr was on the witness stand for much of the first day of testimony before Chief Administrative Law Judge Tammy Prust. The newspaper says Landwehr showed photos of Rogers offering a bear food from his mouth and helping a teenager do the same. At one point Landwehr told the judge "This was not about research. This was entertainment," the Pioneer Press reports.
Rogers filed his lawsuit last summer after the DNR refused to renew his permit.
Under the same settlement agreement that referred the matter to the administrative law judge, Rogers was allowed to leave his devices on bears that had been collared and agreed to stop Internet broadcasts from the dens of bears.
Rogers had previously appealed unsuccessfully to Gov. Mark Dayton to reverse the DNR's decision.
MPR News reports Pust will rule on whether the DNR erred by denying Rogers a permit. After that ruling, Rogers would have the option of taking the case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, MPR says.