News release: DNR volunteers celebrated for contributions

April 7, 2022


More than 15,000 volunteers helped the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources do everything from monitoring rainfall levels to clearing trails, according to the new 2021 annual DNR volunteer report.

“Our volunteers give back to their communities and the state in so many ways,” Commissioner Sarah Strommen said. “I can’t overstate how grateful we are for their continued service.”

Although many volunteer activities paused or looked different in 2021 because of the pandemic, DNR volunteers continued to do important work in ways that were consistent with COVID-19 public health guidelines.

According to the new report, the estimated value of volunteer services in 2021 totaled $7.3 million. The annual report is out just in time for National Volunteer Week (April 17-23), when organizations across the country honor volunteers and recognize the impact of their time and talents.

What do DNR volunteers do?

Volunteers help the DNR with a wide variety of activities, including firearms safety instruction, wildlife habitat improvement, state park campground hosting, planting trees, monitoring rainfall levels, and scanning historical records.

After major flood events did significant damage to sections of the River Trail in Camden State Park, volunteer Paul Rysdahl wanted to make his favorite trail usable again for hikers. Rysdahl started working on the trail alone, but a couple of weeks into the task he enlisted the assistance of friends and a group from the Karen community in the Marshall area. The two main leaders of this group, volunteers Koe Htoo and Daniel Htoo, were instrumental in organizing their community’s involvement. Koe Htoo and Daniel Htoo said nature is very important in the Karen culture, as is helping others.

This small group hand cut trees and branches, raked debris off the trail surface, and hand cut weeds and grass along the sides of more than a mile of trail that traverses the west side of the Redwood River. They also replaced damaged boardwalk boards and re-leveled sections where needed.

The DNR established a department-wide volunteer program in 1988. Over the past 34 years, Minnesotans have contributed more than 12.5 million hours of volunteer service to help manage our state’s natural resources. The value of this service is estimated at more than $238 million. The DNR’s volunteer program is one of the largest among Minnesota state agencies.

To become a volunteer or for more information, visit the volunteer page of the DNR website