LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (Sept. 4, 2012) — Twelve conservation officer candidates, selected from 800 applicants, are spending the next 12 weeks at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Enforcement Conservation Officer Academy at Camp Ripley.
The officer candidates represent the 14th academy class of Minnesota conservation officers, celebrating 125 years of service to the people of Minnesota.
“Conservation officers are the face of the department so it’s important to project a positive, professional image,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner.
One DNR Conservation Officer Candidate Kee Vang, a Hmong American in training status. Upon completion of the 12 week Conservation Officer Academy he would move on to 16 weeks of field training and then receive his initial field station on a one-year probationary period.
The candidates are receiving instruction on fish and wildlife laws, rules of evidence, patrol procedures, search and rescue, and fish and wildlife investigation. Upon graduation, the new conservation officers will spend 16 weeks in field training with a veteran conservation officer before receiving their initial assignment.
Landwehr added that being a conservation officer is not a job, but a lifestyle, demanding on family, inherent with the dangers associated with natural resources law enforcement.
Despite the personal and professional challenges, Col. Jim Konrad, DNR Enforcement director said being a conservation officer can be a very rewarding and satisfying career.
“On a beautiful summer day you could be working from a boat, or during the winter you could be working from a snowmobile, rarely is there a day where you won’t think ‘this is great,”‘ Konrad said.
Conservation officers ensure the future of natural resources opportunities for the people of Minnesota through responsible enforcement of appropriate laws, regulations and rules. A normal field station covers 650 square miles so conservation officers usually work alone and cover extensive and often remote areas of Minnesota. Unlike most other law enforcement agencies, conservation officers seldom have backup support when they encounter potential lawbreakers.
Currently, 25 of DNR’s 155 conservation officer field stations are empty.
Konrad had some parting words of encouragement for the recruits. “Work hard, do your best and make us proud.”
The officer candidates are: Staci Beto, security specialist, Central Lakes College; Kee Vang worked in the banking industry, Sean Williams, protection ranger, National Park Service; Steven Chihack, law enforcement ranger, National Park Service; Caleb Silgjord worked for Mille Lacs Tribal Police Department, Lucas Belgard, police officer, St. Peter Police Department; Brian Holt, police officer, Breckenridge Police Department; Chad Davis, deputy, Waseca County Sheriff’s Office; John Maatz, deputy, Lac Qui Parle Sheriff’s Office; Brent Grewe, deputy, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office; Demosthenes (DJ) Regas, police officer, Bemidji Police Department; Christopher Tetrault, security specialist, Target Corp.