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The Minnesota DNR's Enforcement division makes sure that people who enjoy Minnesota's great outdoors do so safely and legally. Without a strong and visible enforcement presence, laws intended to protect habitat and fish populations could go unheeded, putting these valuable resources at risk.
Conservation officers primarily protect the state's fish, wildlife and other natural resources. We achieve this through a combination of field enforcement, investigation, education and community involvement. Officers also conduct firearms safety training, provide invasive species education and awareness and enforce laws so that people who boat, snowmobile and enjoy other activities do so safely.
The DNR and conservation officers are committed to public safety by being ready to respond to man-made or natural disasters along with its many local, state and federal partners throughout the state. In recent years, COs were recognized for successfully responding to significant challenges represented by major floods, tornadoes and a bridge collapse.
The Enforcement division delivers these services through a network of conservation officers stationed in 155 locations. The average station is about 600 square miles. Currently, 19 stations are vacant as a result of the division's budget situation. Officers in adjacent stations have to cover these un-staffed stations. This results in less effective enforcement, longer response times, and other unwanted outcomes.
Without a fee adjustment, there will be no improvement in the number of vacant stations. That's because nearly two-thirds of the division's budget is directly related to revenue from the sale of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses.
The Enforcement division's staffing level has remained remarkably consistent during the past 70 years. Since 1940, officer numbers have increased by nine. Meanwhile, the state's population has nearly doubled from 2.8 million to about 5.3 million.
Enforcement is a critical component of modern fish and wildlife management. Hunting, fishing and invasive species regulations are dependent upon compliance, compliance that comes from the knowledge that officers are afield in their area.