Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Less enforcement slated for big WMAs

Field Editor

Changes in natural resource law enforcement initiated by DNR
Commissioner Allen Garber mean that wildlife staff at the state’s
major wildlife management areas will spend their time in the field
looking for parking and litter violations, rather than interacting
with hunters.

“The commissioner has extensive experience in law enforcement
and he does not think it is appropriate for NROs to enforce game
and fish laws,” says Field Operations Manager Laurie Martinson.

NRO is the acronym for Natural Resource Officer, or DNR
employees who have some enforcement training and responsibility.
Foresters, park managers, and WMA manages are among the agency’s
NROs.

Recently, the commissioner initiated efforts to clarify the
duties of NROs and use them to supplement the work of conservation
officers. The NROs are not licensed peace officers and have limited
enforcement authority.

By state statute, resident managers and assistant managers of
the state’s eight major wildlife management areas can be NROs. The
agency is planning to give enforcement training to area and
assistant area wildlife managers in northwest Minnesota, which
would give the Division of Wildlife a total of 22 NRO
positions.

Traditionally, the NROs at the WMAs among the state’s largest
and most heavily used public hunting areas have worked closely with
hunters on the units. For instance, prior to “controlled” hunts,
such as a WMA waterfowl hunt where participating hunters go to
designated blinds, NROs would check hunting licenses to make sure
hunters had necessary stamps or permits. During the hunt, they
would enforce basic hunting rules, such as steel shot
requirements.

WMA managers spend considerable time in the field during the
hunting season.

Now that they will be unable to enforce game and fish laws,
wildlife managers are uncertain if they will even have the
authority to look at someone’s hunting or fishing license. If they
see a violation of hunting laws occurring, all they will be able to
do is report it to a conservation officer, they say.

“Most of the duties we used to do in the field during hunting
season we will no longer do,” says Dave Trauba, manager of the Lac
qui Parle WMA.

Wildlife field operations supervisor Tom Isley says wildlife
managers will only be able to enforce WMA rules, which generally
regulate parking, litter, and the use of motor vehicles. Wildlife
NROs will be able to enforce OHV and snowmobile rules on WMAs, but
he does not believe they will be used to perform other trail
enforcement duties.

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