Volunteering - special programs

Volunteering opportunities

Volunteers for the DNR

Find a volunteering opportunity in your area:

Metro area and Central MN
Northwestern MN
Northeastern MN
Southern MN





deer in woods

Be a Hunter Host at Deer Camp

(Metro and Central MN)

Share your love of deer hunting and introduce adults who are new to the sport by volunteering to be a Hunter Host at a DNR Deer Camp experience set for the weekend of October 27-29, 2017 near Hinckley. Hunter Hosts must possess basic woods skills necessary to assist a new deer hunter in the field, as well as the ability to read signs, select a hunting location within an assigned hunting area and have a minimum of 3 years of deer hunting experience. Up to 5 hosts are needed.

Volunteer Hunter Hosts will be provided with:

  • 3 days of free lodging at St Croix State Park
  • Most meals will be via pot luck provided by the new hunters.
  • Reimbursement will be available for mileage at a rate yet to be determined.

Volunteer responsibilities include:

Classroom Training - Saturday, September 9 at Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area and Saturday, October 7 the Forest Lake Sportsman Club, 8 AM - 3 PM each day. This is mandatory for new hunters and is optional for you, but you are certainly welcome to join in.
New hunters will learn:

  • The ways of the whitetail
  • Equipment and clothing needs
  • How to take the next steps into the deer hunting world
  • and will hit the range for target practice

Scouting Day - Saturday, October 21, 2017 (the weekend before camp) at St. Croix State Park, 8 AM - 4 PM (mandatory for all volunteers)

  • Act as a hunter host during scouting day
  • Direct attention to signs of deer in the area
  • Select a spot to hunt

Deer Camp - St. Croix State Park, October 27, 28 & 29, 2017

  • Assist the new hunter in the field during the hunt
  • Take them to the selected hunting area
  • Sit in the blind with them
  • Help identify any deer in the area
  • Assist them in making an ethical shot
  • Recover the game
  • Assist in a group field dressing exercise

Deer Camp Schedule (All three days are mandatory)

  • October 27 - Check in after 4 PM. Relax and share hunting stories with the new hunters.
  • October 28 - Up before dawn to lead your hunter into the field, you may hunt all day if your hunter wants to or come in for a lunch.
  • October 29 - Morning hunt only. Back to camp to clean up lodging and pack your gear to head home by 1 or 2 PM.

For more information contact Mike Kurre, Mentoring Coordinator, St Paul at 651-259-5193, email michael.kurre@state.mn.us or contact Kraig Kiger, Shooting Sports Coordinator, Grand Rapids at 218-328-8868, email kraig.kiger@state.mn.us



Scenic Wildflower and Shrub Seed Collecting

(Northeastern MN)

Hike the wilderness-like setting of Scenic State Park collecting seeds from wildflowers such as wild roses and large-leaved aster and from shrubs.  The wildflower seeds will be used to fill in trails made by foot-travel damage and the shrub seeds will be planted to provide screening between campsites. 

You will:

  • collect seeds from the same species of plant at one time (specific seeds collected will vary depending on exact timing—only ripe seeds should be collected)
  • learn to identify flowers and shrubs by their leaves and shape (training provided)
  • need to have the ability to identify common native seeds in the area and awareness of common terrestrial invasive species such as Canada thistle to avoid collecting seeds from them
  • work outside independently 
  • volunteer for a minimum of 2 hours, 8:30 AM – 4 PM, Monday - Saturday, mid-September – early November

For more information or to schedule a time, contact Shawn Conrad, Assistant Park Manager, Scenic State Park, 56956 Hwy 7 Bigfork MN 56628 at 218-743-3362 or e-mail shawn.conrad@state.mn.us.

Directions to the park: Located 7 miles east of Bigfork on County Road 7. Also 32 miles north of Hwy 169.



Prairie Restoration on WMA's

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Returning land on wildlife management areas (WMAs) to its original state of prairie is a goal of the DNR.  Many populations of wildlife depend on prairie species for food and shelter. Help us increase species richness within restored prairie areas at various WMAs in and around the Lac qui Parle WMA located between Appleton and Montevideo in Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle and Swift counties.

Learn how to:

  • Identify plant species that are ready to be harvested
  • Read maps or air photos of the harvest site
  • Work independently to hand pick seed
  • Properly dry seed
  • Store harvested seed as needed

Volunteers must be able to:

  • Identify different native prairie plant species after flowering (training provided)
  • Work outside in a variety of weather conditions
  • Physically walk over varied terrain and deal with biting insects
  • Hand harvest prairie seed

Time Commitment:

  • 1 – 5 volunteers are needed for at least 2 hours per week from September 10 through October 31, any day of the week including weekends and evenings.  We prefer people work in groups and commit to coming several weeks.

For more information contact Walt Gessler, Wildlife Area Manager, Lac qui Parle WMA, 14047 20th Street NW, Watson, MN  56295 at 320-734-4451 ext. 227 or email walt.gessler@state.mn.us



Take the Plunge at the Metro Children's Water Festival - Sept 27

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Come join over 1,800 4th graders as they come to engage in interactive education about our water resources. The 2017 Metro Children's Water Festival will be held on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, 1265 Snelling Ave N, St Paul on Wednesday, September 27.

This awesome program is made possible by many generous contributors, including volunteers just like you! In fact, it takes over 125 talented and enthusiastic individuals make this possible!

Below is a list of volunteer opportunities. Volunteer positions are filled on a first come, first served basis. If you are interested in volunteering send your name, email address, phone number, affiliation (MNDNR), and volunteer interest to Andy Edgcumbe at aedgcumbe@co.carver.mn.us.

All volunteers are provided both breakfast and lunch while volunteering at the Water Festival. Each volunteer position is different (3 - 7 hrs.), but most volunteers are expected to start at 8:00 AM and go through 3:00 PM. See details in the descriptions below.


Children's Water Festival (CWF) Volunteer Positions

AREA GUIDES: 7 volunteers are needed to act as area guides. Area guides will be stationed in designated areas around the festival to greet and assist with class movement from station to station and help spread excitement. During class presentations, area guides will evaluate learning stations near their designated areas. Area guides will also assist with safety, help presenters set up and tear down, direct non-festival goers to the correct areas, etc. There will be a morning training for area guides.

WATER ARCADE TEAM MEMBERS: At least 20 more volunteers are needed to assist with activities in our two Water Arcades where students have an opportunity and free time to explore different, interactive learning stations Those include activities such as exploring aquatic bugs, creating water message magnets, pledging to reduce their water footprint, exploring groundwater through the Groundwater Model, or being encapsulated in Bubbleology! If you can only commit a few hours, the Water Arcade volunteers are one of the few positions where you can volunteer for a portion of the day.

GREETER GUIDES: 11 volunteers are needed to be greeter guides, a new position to the festival. Greeters will serve as helpers at the bussing station to help guide incoming and outgoing busses, unload busses, provide teachers with their presentation schedule, maps, first responder info, and festival evaluations, and unload lunches off the bus. After all busses are unloaded, greeters will have time to visit and evaluate one or two presentations, and be back to the bussing area in the afternoon to help load the busses for departure. There will be a morning training for greeter guides.

WATER DROPS: Do you have an outgoing spirit? Would rather not be seen or heard at the CWF? You have an enthusiastic soul and a theatrical spirit? Then volunteer to be one of our two Water Drops! The Water Drops are our mascots - consisting of a costume that looks like a giant water drop We could use at least 4 volunteers for these roles Two Water Drops are needed along with two assistants to accompany the Water Drops at all times.

PRESENTATION HELPERS: A number of our presenters require assistants at their learning stations. If you have an interest in assisting - and learning from a veteran presenter - then perhaps one of these volunteer positions might be for you!

COMPOST STATION HELPERS: During lunch we are in need 6 volunteers to help monitor our compost/recycle/trash station to ensure items get put in the proper location and educate students on what's compostable, what's recyclable and what's trash. This is another partial day role running approximately from 10am to 1:30pm.

LUNCH HELPERS: Lunch helpers will assist the lunch coordinator in arranging and providing classes with their appropriate lunches. Helpers will also assist with setting up the lunches provided for the volunteers. This job requires lifting and moving of lunches. 6-10 lunch helpers will be needed.

SET UP / TAKE DOWN: 10 volunteers are needed to help with morning set up of tables and chairs and afternoon take down. The morning positions runs approximately 7:30am to 9:00am and the afternoon positions run approximately 2:30 to 4:00pm This is a physically demanding job, pushing table and chair carts and loading and unloading the tables and chairs on them.

FLOATERS: We also require a few "floaters" - to serve in last minute roles and to run errands for the CWF Coordinators If you have helped with the festival in the past and are okay doing multiple roles, this job is for you. You may be asked to substitute for another volunteer, help with registration, lunch, the water arcade, evaluations, set up, etc This is another role that can work for only a portion of the day.

Visit the CWF website for more information and to take a photo tour of the past Festivals The CWF website can be found at www.metrocwf.org The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is a member of the planning committee and active participant in this event.

Again, if interested in volunteering send your name, email address, phone number, affiliation (MNDNR), and volunteer interest to Andy at aedgcumbe@co.carver.mn.us who is coordinating the volunteers.



Wildflower Seed Collection Event – September 30

(Southern MN)

Walk through the prairie lands of Fort Ridgely State Park collecting seeds from wildflowers like prairie clover, bergamot, and coneflower as part of the park's effort to restore the prairie to its original state. A seed collection event is scheduled for Saturday, September 30 from 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm. 

Learn how to:

  • Identify wildflowers and grasses by their seeds (training provided)
  • Collect seed by hand in designated areas (bags or buckets will be provided)

Volunteers must be able to:

  • Walk through unmowed grass over uneven terrain
  • Withstand outside temperatures possibly ranging from 50 - 80 degrees F with varying wind speeds

Volunteers will need to:

  • Wear long pants, long sleeved-shirts, sturdy shoes or boots, and gloves
  • Bring sun protection, insect repellant, and a water bottle

Come with a friend and learn more about wildflowers, seed collecting and prairies!  Groups are welcome!

For more information or to sign up for this or other agreed-upon dates, contact Joanne Svendsen, Asst. Park Manager, Fort Ridgely State Park, 72158 County Road 30, Fairfax MN 55332 at 507-426-7840 or email Joanne.svendsen@state.mn.us

The park is located six miles south of Fairfax or 12 miles north of Sleepy Eye. Beginning July 17, 2017, Hwy 4 running north and south of the park will be under construction. Expect road closures and detours. The best way to approach the park is from the east via County Road 21. Please visit the MNDOT website for details.



Turtle Crossing Survey


Volunteer to monitor roads and bridges near the Cloquet River and tributaries by Rollins, MN in St. Louis County, for turtles crossing the road or for dead turtles on the road. The exact location can be determined based on your interest. If it is safe to do so, volunteers can also assist turtles across the road.

The DNR will provide you with materials to identify turtles and a simple data sheet to fill out for each survey. You will record the number of turtles observed live and dead, and take a picture of all turtles, if possible.

Turtle surveys usually occur from May through September each year. The most important period to conduct surveys is in June when turtles cross roads to get to nesting areas. Ideally, roads are checked several times a week in June and occasionally in May and again July - September. Volunteers can conduct surveys as often as they like. Any amount of time a volunteer can give is appreciated!

This is a multi-year project. Volunteers are still needed through September 2017, as well as in future years, if interested.

For more information on how you can assist with this turtle survey, contact Gaea Crozier, Nongame Wildlife Specialist, Grand Rapids, MN at 218-328-8811 or email gaea.crozier@state.mn.us


fall colors at park

Share Nature at Lake Carlos State Park

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Get involved as a volunteer in a variety of recreational activities scheduled this fall at Lake Carlos State Park near Alexandria!

Fall Festival- Saturday, October 7, 2017

Enjoy the rich colors of fall while learning about the history of the park and those who came before us.

Help run or instruct one of the multiple stations such as:

  • Harvest Games- Apple on a string or tug of war
  • Dutch Oven Cooking Demonstrations
  • Archery in the Park
  • Butter Making
  • Apple Bobbing
  • Fall Arts and Crafts
  • And much more!

Special Skills Needed - Looking for volunteers with these specials skills to share with park visitors such as:

  • Whittling
  • Carving
  • Spinning
  • Crank socks (circular sock knitting machines made in North America from 1850s to 2015)
  • Soap making
  • Blacksmithing

Kids Programs:
Help out with one of the many weekly school group programs (weekends and some weekdays available.) Topics vary from prairie and forest ecology, birds, and mammals to history. Props and outlines for instruction will be provided. These nature-based programs make visits meaningful and will ultimately impact the way children and their families value our natural resources. Public speaking and/or experience presenting nature-based programs is desired.

Wood Working and Other Projects:
Help us plan, measure, cut, and construct items like traveling desks, tree cookies, lantern boxes, bird feeder kits, and more. Skills and experience in construction and wood working is desired.

For more information contact Ben Eckhoff, Naturalist, Lake Carlos State Park, 2601 County Road 38 NE, Carlos, MN 56319 at (320) 852-7471 x227 or email Benjamin.Eckhoff@state.mn.us

Directions: The park entrance is located 10 miles north of Alexandria on State Highway 29, then 2 miles west on Highway 38.


cutting branches

Buckthorn Bust in Wolsfeld Woods SNA – Oct 14

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Help preserve the most stunning big woods habitat in the Twin Cities metro area! The large sugar maples in Wolsfeld Woods Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) that dominate this 221-acre parcel should be showing their colors during this event!

Up to 100 Restoration Volunteers are needed to help pull invasive buckthorn:

Saturday, October 14 (9:30 AM - 1:30 PM)
Wolsfeld Woods Scientific and Natural Area (SNA)
2060 County Road 6, Long Lake, MN 55356
The dense tree canopy of buckthorn only allows wild flowers to bloom in early spring - all the more important to bust the early growing buckthorn!

Volunteers must be physically capable of walking over ½ mile to the site over uneven ground and some steep terrain. All ages welcome - children must be supervised. Groups are welcome!

Light breakfast snacks and lunch will be provided to all volunteers.

Pre-registration is required so sign up today through our partner, Great River Greening, at https://www.greatrivergreening.org/events/wolsfeld-woods-oct-14/

Fifteen Volunteer Supervisors are also needed for this event. No experience necessary. Visit https://www.greatrivergreening.org/volunteer/volunteer-supervisor/ for more information on Greening's Volunteer Supervisor program.  Free training provided.

This event is a partnership of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Friends of Wolsfeld Woods, Great River Greening and funded by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resource Trust Fund.



3rd Annual Jack-o-Lantern Walk – October 30

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Take part in helping prepare for the Halloween tradition of the Sibley State Park 3rd Annual Jack-o-Lantern Walk! Up to 10 volunteers are needed for this event. Grab your friends and enjoy the fall weather while getting in the Halloween spirit!

Volunteer the week of October 23 – 27 (at least 2 hours) to:

  • Gather pumpkins from a pumpkin field located in Atwater  - pick up and load into a park truck to transport back to the park
  • Carve pumpkins

On Monday, October 30, the day of the Jack-o-Lantern Walk (at least 2 hours between 12 – 6 PM):

  • Pick up pumpkins from bed of park truck
  • Walk along the trail placing pumpkins along the way
  • Light candles in the carved pumpkins

On Tuesday, October 31 or Wednesday, November 1 (at least 2 hours between 8:30 AM – 3:30 PM):

  • Pick up pumpkins along the trail to remove them (using wagons and carts on your own or with park staff)

Qualifications Desired:

  • Must be physically able to pick up a maximum 10 pound pumpkin
  • Have the ability to carve a pumpkin with a knife safely
  • Be able to operate a lighter and the ability to bend up and down often to light them

For more information contact Kelsey Olson, Naturalist, Sibley State Park, 800 Sibley Park Rd. New London, MN 56273 at 320-354-2002 or email either Kelsey.olson@state.mn.us   or Sibley.statepark@state.mn.us


japanese barberry bush

Survey Area for Invasive Plants with Mobile App

(Southern MN)

First introduced to North America as an ornamental living fence and for erosion control, the Japanese barberry grows quickly to spread and shade out native plants that wildlife need for food and shelter. Much the same can be said for the Oriental Bittersweet that grows as a vine and kills trees when it girdles it as it climbs. 

Help us establish healthy habitats for wildlife by assisting in identifying infestations of Japanese barberry and Oriental bittersweet for future treatment in the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest near Wabasha. We plan to survey and map infestations along most, if not all, of the trails in the area.

Up to 10 volunteers will:

  • Meet DNR staff in the Richard J Dorer State Forest on a date scheduled to occur late October to early November (to be determined yet.)
  • Learn how to identify these two woody species (training provided)
  • Download the free EDDMaps mobile application to their smart phone
  • Walk most of one day over uneven terrain on assigned trails (up to 8 hours)
  • Be comfortable in the woods and in using mobile phone apps
  • Describe and report infestations using the EDDmaps mobile application

Some experience identifying invasive plants is helpful, but not required. Water and box lunches will be provided to all volunteers.

For more information contact Susan Burks, Invasive Species Program Coordinator, Division of Forestry, St Paul, at 651-259-5251 or email Susan.burks@state.mn.us


playcleango logo

PlayCleanGo Event - November 17-19

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Support the outreach and education campaign "quo;PlayCleanGo: Stop Invasive Species In Your Tracks" by staffing the booth at the Outdoor Adventure Expo at Midwest Mountaineering, 309 Cedar Ave. South, Minneapolis, November 17-19, 2017.

Help educate recreationists about invasive species and the simple steps they can take to avoid accidently spreading terrestrial invasive species The term "invasive" is reserved for the most aggressive nonnative species capable of harming the environment, economy or human health where they establish.

Volunteer Duties at the Outdoor Adventure Expo:

  • Arrive for your assigned shift on time Shifts are 3-4 hours.
  • Help set up the booth if you come on Friday.
  • Restock any of the materials that have run low (supplies will be under the table)
  • Talk to show visitors about the importance of stopping the spread of invasive species and action steps folks can take to help protect our natural resources.
  • Pass out boot brushes and handouts as needed.
  • Help take down the booth if there at the end of the day on Sunday.

Qualifications Desired:

  • Friendly, open and outgoing attitude
  • A basic understanding of invasive species prevention and management
  • Be familiar with the top 10 least wanted invasive plants in Minnesota including:
  • Buckthorn
  • Canada thistle
  • Spotted knapweed
  • Garlic mustard
  • Knotweed
  • Japanese barberry
  • Common tansy
  • Purple loosestrife
  • Oriental bittersweet
  • Wild parsnip
  • Past show experience is helpful, but not required

Volunteers will receive a free tee-shirt, ball cap and tote bag for helping!

Contact Susan Burks, Forestry Invasive Species Program Coordinator, St Paul, MN at 651-259-5251 or email Susan.burks@state.mn.us for more information.



Scanning Data on Rare Plants and Animals

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Use your techie skills to help move a 30-year-old program of paper files on native and rare plants and animals as well as natural landscapes into the digital age Improve the paper file management with a complementary scanned dataset on projects and reports done by the Minnesota Biological Survey.

The MN Biological Survey collects, interprets, and delivers data and information on rare animal species including mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles, fishes and insects, as well as native and rare plants such as the dwarf trout lily and native plant communities such as maple basswood forests.

Under direction from MBS staff, volunteers will receive training in how to:

  • Review and sort paper files from field surveys, monitoring and research projects
  • Organize and streamline files
  • Scan files as selected during the organization and streamlining process
  • Use quality control scans
  • Consult with MBS staff and other DNR staff on file history and content

Qualifications Desired:

  • Attention to detail
  • Organization skills
  • Interest in ecology, botany, zoology, natural history, natural heritage, biological diversity, records management and archiving
  • Ability to read scientific materials, maps, and animal and plant nomenclature
  • Experience in records management and archiving, museum studies, Microsoft Office software, and document scanners

Experience using GIS software is preferred, but not required.

Time Commitment:

  • At least one day/week or a minimum of 8 hours/week. Monday – Friday, 8 AM – 4:30 PM.
  • All work must be done in the DNR Central Office, 500 Lafayette Rd, St Paul.

For more information contact Bruce Carlson, MBS Supervisor, St. Paul, at 651-259-5083 or email bruce.carlson@state.mn.us



wild rice boat

Improve Habitat for Wildlife on a WMA

(Metro Area and Central MN)

The State of Minnesota has over 1,000 public wildlife areas designated for wildlife watching opportunities of birds, waterfowl and mammals, as well as offering public hunting of small and big game animals. These Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) need help in maintaining and enhancing the land so wildlife can thrive.

Individuals or groups interested in volunteering to help wildlife can do a one-time event or come back several times.

As part of a typical volunteer workday on a MN Wildlife Management Area (WMA) you could:

  • Collect prairie seeds
  • Monitor and control terrestrial invasive species (i.e. Buckthorn)
  • Help with trail projects and trash pickup
  • Assist with boundary and sign maintenance
  • Clear vegetation from shallow lake and wetland water controls
  • Monitor shallow lakes and wetland water levels
  • Collect and/or seed wild rice

To volunteer on a Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) in Stearns, Wright or Sherburne County, contact MN DNR Assistant Area Wildlife Manager Nicholas Snavely based out of Sauk Rapids at 320-223-7872 or email Nicholas.Snavely@state.mn.us for scheduling specific days to volunteer.



hill annex mine museum

Mining History Volunteers

(Central MN, NE MN)

Use your passion for history to help preserve Iron Range Mining history! This is a great opportunity for those looking to learn about careers in archaeology, archival science, or cultural resource management. Up to 3 volunteers per day may assist at the Hill Annex Mine, an open pit mine and museum.

Volunteer duties include:

  • Help store maps in the archive
  • Label storage areas and write dossiers
  • Place artifacts in storage
  • Prepare humidification chambers
  • Dust artifacts and clean workspace
  • Enter data in catalog software
  • Take photographs

An ideal candidate would have some experience in archaeology, museum studies, or historical preservation work of some kind, but this is not necessary to volunteer. Training will be provided.

Time Commitment:

  • Hours are flexible from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Monday – Tuesday, Thursday – Friday, and weekends.    
  • Inquire if you need assistance with transportation to the mine.

For more information contact Ian Dunshee, Historic Resource Specialist, Grand Rapids, at 218-244-4117 or email Ian.Dunshee@state.mn.us

Directions: The entrance to Hill Annex Mine State Park is on the north edge of Calumet along State Highway 169, halfway between Grand Rapids and Hibbing.




Make Geological History!

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

The DNR Lands & Minerals office in Hibbing is home to several large collections of documents relating to past mining and geological exploration in our state.

If you enjoy organizing, proofing, (and sometimes sleuthing!) and appreciate geology, peatlands, and/or Minnesota history - this volunteer position is for YOU!

Work closely with geologists, engineers, and reclamation specialists to help:

  • scan historical documents
  • organize collections holdings
  • proof PDF documents of previously scanned work

We are in the midst of tidying up some of our historical collections and online data in order to make room for our expanding collections. These documents allow everyone understand Minnesota geology, mining, and exploration history - all of which is important academically, environmentally, and economically. We need your help to expedite this enormous task!

As a geological history volunteer:

  • You will volunteer for a minimum of 2-3 hours per week, anytime between 8 am - 4 pm, Monday-Friday, at the DNR Lands and Minerals Office, 1525 3rd Avenue East, Hibbing, MN 55746. Please note that Hibbing is located approximately 3 hours' drive north of the Twin Cities.
  • If you do not live in the Hibbing area, there is the possibility of doing some of this work remotely. A stable internet connection, an email account you check regularly, and Adobe Reader (or equivalent) is required for any volunteers wishing to work remotely. This project does not have a specific end date.
  • Experience with Microsoft Excel or Word is desired, but not required. Training will be provided.

For more information, contact Andrea Reed, Mineral Resource Geologist, NE Region, Hibbing, at 218-231-8460 or email andrea.d.reed@state.mn.us


kawishiwi falls

Trail Brushing and Boardwalk Construction

(Northeastern MN)

Help improve the upkeep and sustainability of the Kawishiwi Falls Hiking Trail, which also serves as a canoe portage between Garden Lake and Fall Lake, six miles east of Ely

Volunteers will:

  • Build a boardwalk to allow crossing through seasonally wet areas on the trail.
  • Cut brush to make the trail corridor wider and taller to allow for safety and usability for hiking and portaging canoes.
  • Haul fill to sections of the trail to create better drainage and a more durable trail tread.
kawishiwi falls

Training will be provided in trail maintenance and construction techniques Volunteers with some knowledge and skills in these areas are preferred, but it's not required. Volunteers that have gone through the DNR's chainsaw safety training may use chainsaws on this project. Others that are interested may be sent to the chainsaw course if time allows – inquire with DNR staff.

Work will take place on the trail anytime from 8 AM – 4:30 PM, Monday-Friday Total project time will vary depending on scheduling and when volunteers are available The work will be accomplished more quickly and efficiently if multiple volunteers are working together on the project. Up to 5 volunteers are needed Reimbursement for mileage is available.

For more information contact Brad Dekkers, Area Specialist, Division of Parks and Trails, Tower at 218-300-7843 or email Brad.dekkers@state.mn.us


people picking up trash

Frontenac State Park Volunteer Positions

(Metro Area and Central MN, Southern MN)

For more information on the three positions below, contact Katie Foshay, Assistant Park Manager, Frontenac State Park, 29223 County 28 Blvd, Frontenac MN 55026 at 651-345-3401 or email Katie.Foshay@state.mn.us

Shoreline Clean-up

Hike along several miles of fairly difficult terrain on the shores of the Mississippi River to pick up trash in Frontenac State Park. Bags, gloves, pickers, and reflective safety vests will be provided. After the trash and garbage are collected, deposit in park dumpsters.

Clean-up will happen at multiple locations along the Mississippi including Sand Point, a bay and peninsula along Lake Pepin within Frontenac State Park. This area has a tendency to collect floating debris and trash from the Mississippi River and requires regular cleaning. Sand Point is a major migratory bird flyway and refuge, so keeping it clean is vital to the birds' health.


Improve the park's appearance and protect park buildings with a coat of paint. Paint overlooks and railings along the Riverview trail. At least 2 volunteers are needed to work several hours on this project.  Those familiar with paint and cleaning out brushes and paint supplies are desired.

Trail Maintenance

Improve the trail conditions and safety for park users by cutting brush, clearing trails, filling in holes on remote trails, shoveling off staircases on bluff trails, and picking up trash and garbage along the way. Up to 4 volunteers are needed to hike several miles in fairly difficult terrain to accomplish this.

Frontenac State Park is located approximately 10 miles SE of Red Wing on Highway 61 or 5 miles northwest of Lake City, then 1 mile north on County Road 2.


hunting from an elevated blind

Adopt-a-WMA Program

(Metro Area and Central MN, NE, NW and Southern MN)

The Adopt-A-WMA Program was established to encourage sporting, outdoor, business, and civic groups or individuals to assist, on a volunteer basis, in improving and maintaining Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) This program encourages Minnesota volunteers to "adopt" a specific site, parking lot, or project on a WMA area to help maintain these public lands in cooperation with Assistant Area Wildlife Managers and Area Wildlife Managers.


Projects for the Adopt-A-WMA Program are typically focused on a minimum 2 year time commitment Volunteers must be able to work outdoors in various weather conditions safely without direct supervision except for initial guidance and orientation as needed. Hours are flexible typically Monday through Friday with weekends possible depending on the project.

Projects for Individuals, Groups, Organizations or Companies

The work level of project/site depends on the interest and skill level of the volunteer(s):

Level 1: (volunteer work without supervision)
Trash pickup, sign replacement, vandalism reporting, reading water gauges, painting facilities, etc.

Level 2: (volunteer work with initial guidance/orientation) 
Seed harvest, weed removal/vegetation management using hand tools, shallow lake and wetland water control vegetation clearing, wildlife surveys, facility work, fence removal, invasive species control, maintaining forest openings, etc

Level 3: (volunteer work requiring certifications/licenses, training or close supervision)
Equipment, power tools, chainsaw work, other specialized skilled work, mowing noxious weeds, mow prescribed fire breaks, mow hunter walking trails, prescribed burning, etc.

  • Organizations or companies interested in improving wildlife habitat on a WMA may do so at Level 3 by providing contract services at no cost This would include access/road maintenance, tractor and equipment operation, farming activities, mowing, power tool use, chainsaw work, prescribed burning, and herbicide application *Liability and Worker's Compensation is covered by the organization, rather than DNR, in these cases.

To find the closest WMA to you, refer to the MN DNR's Recreation Compass and maps of Assistant Area Wildlife Managers and Area Wildlife Managers. Contact them to find out how you can adopt a WMA!


campground hosts

Campground Host at a MN State Park

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

If you enjoy the great outdoors, scenic vistas, and the company of other campers, then consider volunteering to be a "live in" host for at least 4 weeks (one month) during the period of April to October at a Minnesota State Park operated campground.

A host's primary responsibility is to assist campers by:

  • answering questions
  • explaining campground
  • doing light maintenance work around the campground
  • picking up litter
  • sweeping and stocking supplies in toilet buildings
  • performing emergency minor repairs when possible

Hosts may be requested to assist in the naturalist program by posting and distributing schedules, publicizing programs or helping with programs. Volunteers will set an example by being model campers, practicing good housekeeping at all times in and around the host site, and by observing all rules.

Check the list of Minnesota State Parks looking for Campground Hosts for 2017.

Campground Host volunteers generally work independently. Volunteers are accountable to the park manager who will provide training and orientation for hosts and assist hosts throughout the season with any question or problems that may arise. Length of period, workdays and hours are established with the campground manager, but will generally include all weekends and holidays. Avid campers or RV'ers are encouraged to apply!

Read more about the Campground Host Program. Email your questions to campground.host@state.mn.us or call 888- MINNDNR (888-646-6367) or in the Metro area call 651-259-5607.

NOTE: Campground Hosts will be selected from applications that have been satisfactorily completed and submitted in a timely manner. Interviews will be conducted by the campground manager. The number of consecutive years that a host may serve may be limited to allow others an opportunity. These limitations are at the discretion of the campground manager. All DNR volunteers must undergo a background check. This is done at the time of selection. This also applies to hosts returning from the previous season.


making cookies

Make 100 Tree Cookies

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

Help classroom teachers across Minnesota teach children how trees and other woody plants grow, factors that affect tree growth, tree identification, and more You can volunteer to create "tree cookies" which are slices of branches or trunks that show the rings of a tree 100 cookies are enough for about three classes of students, so the more you can make, the better They will be used!

How to Make Tree Cookies:

  • Slice the branches or trunk into half-inch thick, wafer-shaped "cookies" that are between three to six inches in diameter.
  • "Interesting" cookies with easily readable rings are preferred (these show a history of disease, disturbance, or other story.)
  • Dry the cookies correctly Do not skip this step or your cookies will rot See detailed instructions.
  • Sand the surfaces until the rings appear.
  • Finish the surfaces with clear varnish.
  • Optional – Label the cookie with the tree species and location cut.
  • Don't use wood from ash trees.

Detailed instructions found in How to Make Tree Cookies PDF

This project can be done individually or with a group (scouts, 4-H, FFA, Kiwanis, etc.) You must provide your own tree or woody plant material, saws, sander, oven, varnish, and labor.

When finished contact Laura Duffey, Project Learning Tree Coordinator, at 651-259-5263 or email laura.duffey@state.mn.us to arrange for delivery to a school site and to get Minnesota DNR recognition.

Project Learning Tree (PLT) program is a natural resources education program for teachers across Minnesota. Teachers often don't have the time or capability to make these cookies so your help is greatly appreciated.


removing brush

Get Physical on a State Natural Area

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

As part of a typical volunteer workday on a MN Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) you will:

  • collect prairie and woodland seeds
  • plant seedlings
  • pull buckthorn or other invasive species of plants
  • cut and burn brush such as sumac

Projects are typically carried out on Saturdays from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, unless otherwise noted, on many weekends throughout the year.

SNAs are the premier state lands displaying examples of native prairies, old growth forests, geological features and habitat for rare and endangered species.

Take a look at volunteering on SNAs, and check out the calendar of events to see when you can come lend a hand!


minnesota master naturalist logo

Be a Master Naturalist

If you enjoy learning about nature, hiking, bird watching, or identifying wildflowers, you'll love being a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer!

Take trainings and learn about Minnesota's biomes (plant and animal communities) including:

  • hardwoods and rivers
  • north woods and Great Lakes
  • prairies

To learn more visit www.MinnesotaMasterNaturalist.org.

The Minnesota Master Naturalist Program is a joint effort of the University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.


field desks

Build Portable Field Desks

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

Use your woodworking skills to build portable field desks! Field Desks are a fun tool to assist with teaching in a School Forest. (School Forests are natural spaces used as an outdoor classroom.) Create a small wooden box for students to carry supplies out to the forest and use as a hard writing surface. Younger students can even turn them on their side and use them as a small stool to sit on.
Field Desk Details

  • A classroom set is 30 field desks.
  • You need to provide all materials. (Many have been successful at seeking donations for the materials from hardware stores.)
  • You can use this field desk design or come up with your own approach. Do what works best for your woodworking skills.
  • In 2012, an outstanding volunteer put together a video of how to make field desks. This video might help your planning, especially if you are doing the project with a group. (Note this is just one approach, and not meant to be directions.)
  • You will need to deliver the field desks directly to the School Forest site when they are complete.

School Forest Site Selection

  • There are School Forest sites statewide.
  • After you finish making a set, you will select a school from a short list of sites currently requesting desks. The list changes as volunteers complete projects, so we do not post a list online.
  • We do NOT reserve School Forest sites. When you have completed your field desks, you can select from the list that we provide.

Eagle Scouts
If you are considering doing field desks for an Eagle Scout project, we are happy to work with you.

  • DNR School Forest staff can sign your paperwork to initiate the project.
  • Once you have the desks completed, the School Forest site coordinator at the school should be able to sign the final/completion form. Or, if preferred, DNR School Forest staff can sign it.
  • Be sure to allow enough time to finish and deliver the project before your 18th birthday.

Contact Laura Duffey, Project Learning Tree Planning Specialist, MNDNR Division of Forestry, St Paul at laura.duffey@state.mn.us to let her know you are interested and then get started on your project!


steve ward

Lake Level Minnesota volunteering... doing your level best!

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

Whether it is floods, droughts, or just a normal year, lake level fluctuations (or the lack of them) are important to document. Be a volunteer observer and record lake levels on a regular basis.

Find out more about the Lake Level Minnesota program and Check lake levels with the LakeFinder


firearms safety class

Volunteer Safety Instructors

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

DNR Certified Volunteer Safety Instructor opportunities are available in the following areas:

  • Firearms safety
  • Bowhunter education
  • Snowmobile safety
  • ATV safety
  • Wildlife species

Pass on a love for your sport by teaching youth and adults the ethics and safety you would expect from those you meet in the field.

All new instructor applicants and instructors seeking recertification must meet the requirements of being at least 18 years old and passing a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) background check.

If you are interested in becoming a DNR Certified Volunteer Safety Instructor, apply online to become an instructor. And check out upcoming safety instructor courses. There is no fee to attend.



Volunteer Loon Watcher Survey

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

If you live on a lake or regularly visit a lake, and you have an interest in loons, you can be a volunteer "loon watcher" in the Minnesota Volunteer Loon Watcher Survey.

As a Loon Watcher you will record:

  • the number of loons you see
  • nesting success observed in eggs and young birds
  • interesting occurrences and
  • problems that may harm the loons

For more information about the Minnesota Volunteer Loon Watcher Survey contact Kevin Woizeschke at Kevin.Woizeschke@state.mn.us or 218-203-4371.


zebra mussels

Zebra Mussel Monitoring Program

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

Zebra mussels are spreading to lakes and rivers in the Midwest.

These small invasive mussels attach to hard surfaces in lakes and rivers doing major damage such as:

  • killing native mussels
  • limiting recreational activities
  • clogging water supply pipes
  • competing with larval fish for food

Spend a few minutes checking the docks, swimming platforms, boats, motors, anchors, and any hard objects that have been in the lake or river where you live. Early detection for zebra mussels is important in protecting your property and Minnesota's water resources.

Learn more on how you can monitor for zebra mussels.