News Release

DNR names 2019 Conservation Officer of the Year

January 24, 2019

Mitch Boyum and others from Enforcement Division honored at annual awards day

Minnesota Department of Resources Conservation Officer Mitch Boyum has been named the 2019 DNR Conservation Officer of the Year, an award presented to an officer each year for outstanding overall career performance. Enforcement Division Director Rodmen Smith presented the award earlier this month at the division’s annual awards ceremony and training conference at Camp Ripley. 

Boyum, a conservation officer since 2000, patrols the Rushford area in southeastern Minnesota. He has worked extensively on enforcement issues related to chronic wasting disease, assists in teaching new conservation officer candidates at Academies, and is dedicated to helping youth learn about and enjoy the outdoors.

"Throughout his career, CO Boyum has proved himself to be an exceptional officer," Smith said. "He understands the unique position conservation officers hold in their communities and is a positive reflection not just of the Enforcement Division, but the department as a whole."

Other Enforcement Division honorees include:

Boat and Water Safety Achievement Award – Nick Klehr
CO Nick Klehr, who patrols the lake- and river-rich Litchfield station, has prioritized boat and water safety education and enforcement since he became a conservation officer in 2014.

"CO Klehr’s involvement in boat and water safety goes well beyond simple law enforcement," Smith said. "Whether he’s talking with anglers or giving presentations to citizen groups, he never misses an opportunity to incorporate a safety message."

Waterfowl Enforcement Achievement Award – Ben Huener
A lifelong duck hunter and the son of a waterfowl biologist, CO Ben Huener patrols the Roseau station in northwestern Minnesota. His area includes three major wildlife management areas that attract waterfowl and hunters alike.

"CO Huener’s passion for waterfowl – and his understanding of the importance of protecting the wetland habitats upon which they rely – are evident in his waterfowl-related work," Smith said.

Willard Munger Wetlands Achievement Award – Shane Vernier
CO Shane Vernier, who patrols the Willmar area, is the recipient of this year’s Willard Munger Wetlands Achievement Award. The award, which recognizes an officer who’s particularly devoted to water resource protection, is named after the longtime state House of Representatives member who was focused on conservation and the environment.

"The water in CO Vernier’s patrol area receives heavy use, including from agricultural operations and people out recreating, but he does an outstanding job of making sure those valuable water resources are protected and preserved," Smith said.

Enforcement Education Achievement Award – Jen Mueller
CO Jen Mueller, a regional training officer who works with volunteers to deliver the Enforcement Division’s safety programs, is recognized for her commitment to education. Throughout her law enforcement career, she’s prioritized education as one of the most important aspects of her job.

"Officer Mueller provides education and training to other law enforcement personnel and members of the public alike," Smith said. "There’s no doubt Minnesota is a safer place because of her dedication."

Natural Resources Pilot John Heineman received a safety award from the Airborne Law Enforcement Association; COs Joel Heyn, Scott Arntzen and Pat Watts, legal and policy analyst for the Enforcement Division, were presented appreciation awards; and COs Lucas Belgard, Nathan Benkofske, Jayson Hansen, Mike Krauel, Blong Lor, Phil Mohs, Randy Patten, Al Peterson, Eric Schettler and Jimmy Van Asch received lifesaving awards.