St. Paul — They’ve taught the next generations of outdoor recreationists how to enjoy their sports safely and ethically, they’ve busted poachers, and they’ve worked closely with conservation officers with decades of experience.
And they’ve learned the ins and outs of natural resources law enforcement. Since they began training last spring, the Minnesota DNR’s 15 newest conservation officers have gained the experience necessary to assume their field stations. The officers were stationed Jan. 4.
The 15 officers, some of whom didn’t have previous law enforcement experience and came aboard through the Conservation Officer Prep program, were among hundreds of applicants with a desire to protect Minnesota’s people and natural resources. They bring with them diverse backgrounds and myriad experiences, but all completed more than seven months of intensive training to prepare them for their new careers.
“Our natural resources are Minnesota’s crown jewel, and our conservation officers are on the front lines of working to ensure future generations have the same or better outdoor opportunities than we have today,” said Col. Rodmen Smith, director of the DNR’s Enforcement Division. “We demand a lot from our conservation officers. I have no doubt these new officers will join their dedicated colleagues in always answering the call.”
There are 155 field stations across the state, each covering about 650 square miles. While this year’s conservation officer class will cut down on the number of vacancies, there still will be more than 15 field stations without full-time, dedicated coverage. The DNR is holding a CO Academy this spring and plans to begin the hiring process next month for a 2024 Academy.
New officers and their stations include: Trent Anderson, St. Cloud; Mason Bulthuis, Madison; Ryan Christenson, Rochester; Dallas Cornell, Ortonville; Jesse Drown, Jackson; Coby Fontes, Baudette; Brett Fox, Bemidji; Anthony Hams, Warroad; Andrew Ladzinski, Pine River; Hudson Ledeen, Grand Marais; Matthew Paavola, White Bear Lake; Dustin Roemeling, Worthington; Adam Stennett, Sauk Rapids; Benjamin Ulrich, Osseo; and Felicia Znajda, Osakis.