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18 officers join state conservation officer ranks

A cadet participates in a scenario similar to what they’ll encounter in the field while being evaluated. Photo courtesy the Minnesota DNR

CAMP RIPLEY—Following 15 weeks of intensive training at Camp Ripley, 18 cadets have graduated from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Academy and are set to begin patrolling the state's fields, waters and woods. The officers will spend the next several months working with experienced officers before assuming their assigned stations in December.

"For more than 130 years, DNR conservation officers have worked to protect Minnesota's people and natural resources," said Col. Rodmen Smith, director of the DNR Enforcement Division, in a news release. "We have a proud tradition of service to the state and I'm confident our newest officers will succeed in carrying it on."

Minnesota conservation officers are among the most highly trained in the nation in part due to the Academy training they receive before heading afield. Over the years, DNR Enforcement has held 18 formal academies at which recruits are trained in all aspects of being a conservation officer. Experienced officers and other experts teach them on a wide variety of topics, including education/outreach, fish and wildlife laws, patrol procedures and environmental enforcement. Cadets are tested each week and put through practical scenarios that reflect what they'll encounter in the field.

Each of the graduates was chosen from among hundreds of applicants and underwent rigorous examinations, psychological profiles and background checks before beginning at the Academy.

There currently are about 35 vacant conservation officer field stations in Minnesota, which means the number of field officers is similar now to what it was five decades ago. The number of vacant field stations will be halved when this year's graduates begin in their stations. Thanks to ongoing support from Gov. Mark Dayton and state legislators, the DNR plans to hold another Conservation Officer Academy in spring 2019.

"One of the reasons we have been successful and received support over the years is because of the direct ties and relationships conservation officers have with the communities we serve," said Lt. Jeff Johanson, DNR Enforcement training coordinator supervisor. "We live in the areas we serve and become integral parts of the community."