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Pat Schlarbaum is retiring from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. During his 33-year career he helped bring peregrine falcons back to Iowa to nest, including at the Iowa State Capitol.
Mike Kilen/The Register

Pat Schlarbaum was a key figure in helping fill the Iowa skies with raptors that were long gone.

But the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Diversity Program technician is retiring and won’t be replaced, thanks to budget shortfalls.

The DNR’s budget, slashed nearly in half from 2009 to its fiscal year 2018 appropriation of $11.2 million, prompted DNR director Chuck Gipp to say this week that state parks could close if managers retire. A less heralded loss is already occurring — positions that won’t be filled by other retiring employees, such as Schlarbaum.

“The agency is making tough choices,” Schlarbaum said. “There is a way to proceed and it’s to encourage all Iowans to engage in conservation. The message needs to go out: Each of us can do more for these species.”

Schlarbaum, 65, will retire as a 33-year wildlife diversity technician after his last public event Saturday, thanking partners who helped return nesting osprey to the state.

Schlarbaum was perhaps the most public face of those efforts, helping grow bald eagle appreciation events across the state to a dozen and shepherding the osprey program. With a silver mullet mane of hair and glasses perched the end of his nose, he spirited out from his home in rural Nevada lugging around a 400-pound replica of an eagle’s nest to spur interest.

The evidence of his impact is visible through a powerful scope mounted on a tripod at his feet earlier this…