It seems only appropriate that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) 13th Conservation Officer Academy got underway March 28th at Camp Ripley on the 125th anniversary of the game warden service in Minnesota.
Known today as conservation officers, they trace their history back to March 28, 1887 when W.F. Zwickey was appointed as Minnesota’s first game warden. His mission was to cover the entire state enforcing game and fish laws. There was no salary, no expense money, and no personnel to assist him.
At this academy, there are nine candidates who were selected from among 800 applicants. Calling it a very important and challenging job, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr told the candidates that conservation officers are highly regarded by the public.
This is the first Conservation Officer Academy since 2008, and the 13th class since academy training began at Camp Ripley in 1994. Currently, 29 positions are vacant in the Enforcement Division, including 20 of the DNR’s 155 conservation officer field stations. A field station covers 650 square miles.
The Conservation Officer Academy curriculum includes 12 weeks training in 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 being assigned their first station.
Another academy with approximately 18-20 candidates is scheduled to begin in August.
PHOTO CAPTION: Academy 13: Front row – Jen Mueller, Amber Peterson, Napoleon Genereux, Desiree Holmberg, Shawn Wichmann. Back row – Anthony Bermel, Mitchell Lawler, Jason Beckman, Scott Arntzen