DNR conservation officers bolster their ranks (2005-04-26)
The Minnesota DNR has added 18 new conservation officers to its ranks.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has added 18 new conservation officers to its ranks. DNR officials are looking to the new recruits to provide the residents of Minnesota with years of outstanding service because of potential they have shown in their training.
The 2005 class of officers graduated from the DNR Conservation Officer Academy at Camp Ripley on Friday, April 22. The new officers completed both field and classroom training designed to provide them with the basic skills needed to become a conservation officer.
The officers will now participate in 12 weeks of field training where they will work with experienced officers to enhance their training. Upon successful completion of field training, the officers will be assigned to their respective stations.
During the course of their 12-week training at Camp Ripley, the officers learned confiscations and forfeitures, warrants and exceptions, game and fish license and registration, firearms use, criminal law and judicial procedures, emergency vehicle operation, self defense, watercraft laws, recreational vehicle safety and regulation, game identification and enforcement, hazardous materials, crime scene management and evidence collection.
The graduates will fill stations vacated by recently retired conservation officers. Even with these replacements, 15 conservation officers (11 field stations and four other) vacancies exist. Another academy is scheduled for 2006. There are currently 189 conservation officers employed with the DNR Division of Enforcement.
To ensure the DNR is hiring the highest quality of people to protect, preserve, and enhance the state's natural resources, there is an in-depth hiring process, including a background check and oral interview process. The 18 new officers were chosen from 576 applicants. The DNR recruits, at most, one class of officers per year.
Capt. Mark Johanson, academy training program administrator, believes the current class demonstrated they are consistent with the high standards the DNR has set for employees in the field. "The academy is a rigorous program," Johanson said. "They should make excellent conservation officers. I am pleased with the quality of people that we are putting in the field. I am confident they are ready for the task at hand."
DNR Chief Conservation Officer Col. Mike Hamm said the DNR Division of Enforcement always recruits outstanding men and women for officer positions, but the most recent class stood out. "This class was really an exceptional group," Hamm said, "I would expect to see some great things from them in the future."
The officers' talents will need to be broader than just law enforcement; conservation officers serve as the DNR's front-line representatives and interact with the public, landowners, schools, and conservation groups. Each conservation officer is responsible for a field station of about 600 square miles, where the officer is expected to be proficient at performing natural resources management and law enforcement-related activities.
The 2005 class of officers and station assignment include: Timothy Collette, Cass Lake; Joseph Stattelman, Mankato; Pat Znajda, Roseau; Robert Geving, Mankato; Mary Manning, Grand Marais; Adam Block, Prior Lake; Shane Osborne, Montevideo; Michael Fairbanks, Virginia; David Schottenbauer, Princeton; Daniel Malinowski, Fosston; Brett Oberg, Maplewood; Jason Peterson, Eagan; Eric Schettler, Fairmont ; Sarah Backer, Cambridge; Thomas Wahlstrom, Warroad; Darrin Kittleson, International Falls; Randy Hanzal, International Falls; Chad Polecheck, Roseau.