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CO Reports: Illegal fireworks responsible for fire

Area MnDNR Conservation Officer Weekly Reports - July 7, 2021

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

District 10 - Mille Lacs area

CO (Conservation Officer) Dan Starr (Onamia) cited an individual for using illegal fireworks, which set a very fast-spreading swamp fire. The Isle Fire Department did a great job and prevented the evacuation of Father Hennepin State Park.

Starr also worked on two pending cases of property damage in the Mille Lacs WMA with charges pending. ATV, fishing, and boating activities were worked over the busy weekend. Assistance was given to a neighboring officer with a private access lake. A night-ban fishing case was also worked on.

CO Gregory Verkuilen (Garrison) saw local water temperatures as high as they typically get, which brought out a lot of water recreation. Inexperienced PWC riders led to violations related to operation times and lack of required training. Several boats were lacking enough PFDs and proper display of registration. Large holiday gatherings also resulted in juveniles on ATVs without proper safety equipment.

CO Victoria Griffith (Isle) focused on ATV activity on the Soo Line Trail and Redtop Trail throughout the week. Mille Lacs Lake and Cedar Lake were also worked for angling and recreational boating activity. A call was fielded about a loon that was on the side of the road and unable to fly away. Griffith brought the loon to Mille Lacs Lake, where it was successfully released. Assistance was given to a neighboring officer who had an ATV rider flee. Griffith also assisted at an ATV accident in the Solana State Forest. Enforcement action was taken on several ATV, angling and boating violations.

CO Ashley Whiteoak (Malmo) spent time patrolling for fishing, boating, and ATV riding activity. Enforcement action was taken for no angling license in possession, failure to have a fire extinguisher in the boat, failure to have life jackets for all passengers in a boat, failure to have a throwable PFD in a boat, failure to transfer sale of a boat, failure to display registration numbers on a boat, operating a jet ski one hour before sunset, unregistered ATV, ATV with expired registration, failure to display ATV registration, failure to display ATV registration numbers, failure to transfer sale of an ATV, operating an ATV with youth passengers without helmets, operating an ATV with youth passengers without seatbelts, and no lights while operating an ATV. Over the busy Fourth of July weekend, Whiteoak also responded to two ATV rollovers and assisted the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office on a domestic assault.

CO Dustie Speldrich (Willow River) responded to a water emergency on a local lake. A pontoon had flipped over. Luckily, no one was injured. Speldrich worked area lakes finding many violations for expired watercraft registration, insufficient PFDs, angling without licenses, operating PWCs at greater than slow/no-wake speed when under 150 feet from shore, and no observer or mirror when towing tubers. Recreational vehicle violations were handled including operators who think they can drive right down the lane of traffic as if they were a car. All ATV operators are reminded they must travel to the extreme right of the roadway. Dago Lake Day Use Area and McCormick Lake Day Use Area were patrolled as these have become dumping and littering sites for household garbage and used syringes in the bathroom vaults.


CO Bret Grundmeier (Hinckley) found what seemed like record levels of activity during the July 4 holiday weekend. Hot weather had lakes packed with boaters, kayakers and jet skiers and far too many individuals were found without required life jackets. One individual, who was enjoying the day on a rented pontoon, decided to jump in the lake for a swim prior to realizing the pontoon did not have a swim ladder. The swimmer was happy to see two game wardens arrive who could help her get back on board the pontoon.

CO Mikeena Mattson (Wealthwood) worked sport fishing, boating, ATV and OHM enforcement this week. Enforcement action was taken for various ATV, fishing, and boating violations. An individual was arrested for fleeing in a motor vehicle and various other offenses.

District 9 - Brainerd area

CO Tony Flerlage (Crosby) focused work on the area lakes and Mississippi River. More boaters were seen over the Independence Day weekend than any other weekend this year. He dealt with calls of injured and nuisance bears. Fishing has been good through the week.

CO Eric Sullivan (Brainerd) worked area lakes and investigated illegal use of hydraulic jets. He also investigated a road-improvement project that involved the filling of a wetland. Remote patrols in the BWCA were also part of the past week.

CO Amber Ladd (Aitkin) spent the week working ATV and boating activity in the area. She also assisted with a work detail on Lake Minnetonka.

District 2 - Bemidji area

CO Tom Hutchins (Crookston) reports attending a firearms safety class in the Fertile area. Various public water-related complaints were checked. Anglers, watercraft operators, and ATV operators were contacted throughout the week.

CO Brice Vollbrecht (Bemidji #1) worked a busy Fourth of July weekend. The warm and sunny weather brought a lot of recreational boaters out to area lakes. He followed up on wetland complaints and took nuisance-bear calls.

CO Hannah Mishler (Bemidji #2) checked anglers, boaters and ATV riders in the Bemidji/Bagley area. She also worked a BWCA detail with another officer. Assistance was also given by Mishler and K9 Storm to Mahnomen County in the search for a firearm related to an ongoing investigation.


CO Chris Vinton (Perham) reports a hot and windy holiday weekend with lots of boating activity. Most boaters observed where enjoying the hot weather responsibly. Area lake accesses have taken a hit with the low water conditions, with several boaters not being able to launch due to the shallow water. Angling pressure over the weekend was light due to the heavy boat traffic and warm conditions. An RPN was issued for fill that was placed in a public water. Enforcement action was taken for operating a weed roller without a permit, ATV in a ditch south of Highway 10, failure to display registration on a watercraft, no angling license in possession and riding on the gunwale of a watercraft under power.

CO Jake Swedberg (Detroit Lakes) spent a busy Fourth of July weekend patrolling area lakes. Many people took advantage of a perfect weekend of weather to enjoy time on the water. While most boaters were law-abiding, there were several who needed some education on boating laws. Swedberg also worked a couple of details with area conservation officers on Big Cormorant and Pelican lakes over the weekend focused on boating safety. Enforcement action taken for the weekend included boating while intoxicated, insufficient life jackets, operating a PWC outside of legal hours, operating a boat without navigation lights, and gunwale riding.

CO Al Peterson (Osage) worked boat and water safety, anglers and a possible wetland violation. He also assisted local sheriff’s offices with calls.

CO Bill Landmark (Pelican Rapids) spent the week focusing on boat and water safety enforcement. Hot weather led to the busiest Fourth of July weekend Landmark has worked. With the high activity came an increase in complaints and violations. Boaters, specifically those operating wakeboard boats, are reminded that it is illegal to sit and lay on the back deck of those boats while underway. Minnesota law requires a railing or adequate guards to prevent occupants from falling overboard. A large number of beer cans were observed in the water at party locations on area lakes. Landmark encourages people to report individuals who are littering on area lakes and provide a boat registration number to area officers. Operation Dry Water was worked with COs Swedberg, Chihak, and Warren on area lakes and several individuals were arrested for boating while intoxicated. Calls from the public included reports of watercraft harassing wildlife, and injured loons. Enforcement action was taken for unregistered OHM, OHM operating in a road right-of-way, gunwale riding, PWC after hours, insufficient number of life jackets, and multiple other watercraft-related violations.

District 3 - Fergus Falls area

CO Brian Holt (Osakis) focused on boating safety and AIS compliance during the previous week. Time was also spent checking anglers and following up on a public waters violation. Holt worked a busy Fourth of July weekend in the Osakis area. Enforcement activity involved boating safety and angling violations.

CO Daniel Baumbarger (Glenwood) reports enforcement efforts for the week were focused on checking anglers, boaters and ATV operators, and monitoring AIS law compliance. Additional time was spent investigating a wetland complaint, and handling calls about injured/orphaned animals. Area lakes were busy over the holiday weekend with many people fishing and boating.

CO Mitch Lawler (Alexandria) worked an extremely busy Fourth of July weekend on area waterways. This included a work detail with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office on the Alexandria Chain of Lakes, resulting in several arrests for boating while impaired. Additional times was spent working fishing enforcement and following up on APM violations.

CO Troy Richards (Fergus Falls) worked the busy Fourth of July weekend on area waterways with numerous violations documented, mostly related to boating activity. Additional time was spent monitoring fishing and ATV activity. Several calls/complaints from the public were received and investigated.


District 4 - Walker area

CO Patrick McGowan (Walker) spent time patrolling Cass and Crow Wing county lakes for boating activity. Enforcement was taken for numerous violations, and two boat operators were arrested for DWI.

CO Nick Baum (Park Rapids) patrolled recreational vehicle, boat and water, and fishing activity this past week. Baum took enforcement action for various violations ranging from taking fish without a license, no navigation lights for watercraft, insufficient PFDs, operating PWCs after hours, and minor consumption.

CO Jacque Hughes (Longville) checked boating and angling activity. She also spoke at a firearms safety class. Enforcement action was taken for a juvenile without a helmet on an ATV and no license in possession.

CO Calie Kunst (Remer) spent most of her time on the lakes in the Remer area over the busy holiday weekend. Time was also spent on ATV enforcement. Various violations were found throughout the week and enforcement action was taken. Kunst also responded to a deer vs. vehicle crash.

CO Adam Seifermann (Staples) reports seeing an increase in recreational activity in the area with the holiday weekend and warm weather. He focused enforcement on angling, boater safety and ATV activity. He also reports assisting other agencies, conducting commercial inspections and working a detail for Operation Dry Water.

CO Michael Cross (Lake George) worked on the lakes and trails, and investigated numerous calls for service. It was a very busy weekend with many recreational boaters and ATV riders out. Enforcement action was taken for angling, aquatic plants, invasive species, recreational boating, minor consumption and minor possession violations.

CO Jordan Anderson (Wadena) worked a warm and dry week on the trails and waters. Enforcement action was taken on various boating/fishing related violations as well as ATV violations. Fire restrictions are in place and will remain unless significant precipitation is received.

District 11 - St. Cloud area

CO Tou Vang (Pierz) monitored ATV activity, checked anglers, and worked boating safety on area lakes. Enforcement action was taken for not having angling license in possession, multiple PWC violations, failure to display boat registration, no Type IV PFD, and no navigation lights on after sunset.


CO Todd VanderWeyst (Paynesville) worked angling and boating activity. He also covered calls in vacant stations and assisted with a public waters violation. Boating activity on area lakes was heavy with the hot weather.

CO Caleb Silgjord (Sauk Centre) followed up on an aquatic plant destruction complaint on an area lake. A possible wetlands violation was also investigated. Silgjord worked multiple area lakes for Operation Dry Water. Various watercraft violations were addressed throughout the weekend, including insufficient PFDs, no registration, navigation lights, as well as afterhours PWC operation.

CO Keith Bertram (Long Prairie) spent the week working boating and angling activity. Enforcement action was taken for no license, no registration, no PFDs, and ATV violations. Bear-related complaints are continuing to increase in the area.

District 12 - Princeton area

CO Mike Krauel (Mora) focused on boat and water safety during a very busy Independence Day weekend. Krauel also spent time working off-road vehicle complaints at a local access. Enforcement action was taken for angling after license revocation, operating motorized vehicles off road in a public access, drug and order for protection violations, and several boating violations.

CO Nate Benkofske (Milaca) reports checking ATV riders and boaters. Violations encountered were infants on ATVs without helmets, expired registration, unlawful OHM operation, and fishing without licenses. Several DWI arrests were made with CO Ladd.

Aviation Section

Standby CO Pilot Tim Gray (Bemidji) continues to fly surveys for Fisheries.

Standby NR Pilot Jessica Holmes (Grand Rapids) reports a week of flying Lake Vermilion creel surveys. She also attended to administrative tasks and prepared for upcoming aircraft maintenance.

CO Pilot Jason Jensen (Brainerd) reports assisting another CO pilot with watercraft enforcement efforts with the seaplane during Operation Dry Water weekend. Jensen also flew Fisheries creel flights and noted more possible APM violations.


NR Pilot Brad Maas (Brainerd) worked on aircraft preparation for the upcoming cattail spray season, and assisted with a helicopter search for a possible escaped elk from a captive elk farm near Bemidji. He also attended an aviation webinar.

CO Pilot Charles Scott (Grand Rapids) flew a Rainy Lake creel flight. He attended to vehicle maintenance and scheduled aircraft repairs. Charles also assisted with checking boaters on multiple area lakes.

Water Resource Enforcement Officers

WREO Joseph Stattelman (NW) spent the week working on Wetland Conservation Act and public water cases. Time was spent updating old cases and working with field COs. Boat and water activity was worked over the holiday weekend. Assistance was given on a medical call of a 9 year old in a rural area. A detail was worked in Park Rapids area. ATV activity was worked around Becker and Otter Tail lakes areas. Anglers were checked. The focus around the lakes and public access areas was on AIS law compliance.

WREO Robert Haberman (North Central) focused on AIS and ATV enforcement over the holiday weekend. Time was spent working on cases and conducting site visits. Haberman assisted DNR fire and local agencies on a wildfire, with the likely cause being fireworks. TFO duties were conducted with the Aviation Unit near Duluth.

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Joe Albert, Communications coordinator | Division of Enforcement


I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with numerous job titles since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently as Digital Editor. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work these 30+ years. I was present and worked on the our web page when our original BrainerdDispatch.com website first went live on April 26, 1994.
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