Spent a day last week with DNR Conservation Officer Shane Osborne, who patrols the Evansville area in western Minnesota. We were out on Lake Ida near Alexandria, where Osborne was taking his turn patrolling the vacant station.
I’m sure Osborne has had more exciting days on the job, which isn’t to say that busting someone for something is part and parcel to job pleasure.
But the day was especially illustrative of the fact that, for many people, contact with a conservation officer is one of their only contacts with the DNR. Treated well, they’ve probably got an overall positive impression of the agency.
Certainly, Osborne was looking for violations: fishing with too many lines; no license in possession; not enough life jackets on the boat – those kinds of things. But writing a ticket wasn’t the sole intent.
He warned people for not having throwable devices within easy reach. And if they didn’t have one on board, he asked them to go back to shore and get one. He sent another group of kayakers back to shore to apply this year’s registration to their crafts (after calling to ensure they actually had current registration, which they did).
To be fair, everyone was cooperative and didn’t force a more heavy-handed way of dealing with them. And there were no serious violations.
But many of Osborne’s dealings had little to do with any violations. He gave ice cream certificates to kids wearing their life jackets. He answered questions about invasive species laws. Jump-started one boat’s battery.
And at the end of the day, it’s likely every boater he came into contact with would classify it as a pleasant experience.