Meet our Volunteers

Volunteers for the DNR

Summer 2019

Volunteer instructors crucial to DNR Enforcement safety training program

Since the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Enforcement Division began offering firearms safety training nearly 65 years ago, it has certified more than 1.3 million students – an average of about 20,000 per year.

While conservation officers are intimately involved in the program, the reality is it wouldn’t be possible without the thousands of volunteers who hold classes and field days in communities throughout the state. The same goes for the DNR’s other safety education programs, such as ATV and snowmobile safety and bowhunter education.

There are more than 6,000 volunteer safety instructors in Minnesota, and some of them have been a part of the program since its earliest days. This spring, the DNR Enforcement Division recognized one instructor who’s been teaching for 60 years; 14 who've been teaching 50 years; 16 who've been teaching 40 years; and 36 who've been teaching for 30 years.

"The dedication of our volunteer instructors is nothing short of phenomenal," said Capt. Jon Paurus, education/safety training programs manager for the DNR Enforcement Division. “They truly are the backbone of our safety training programs and the reason these programs continue to be so successful.”

Some instructors plan and hold one class each year. Others provide several offerings, and still others teach on multiple topics, becoming go-to resources in their communities when it comes to enjoying the outdoors safely. They work closely with local conservation officers and regional training officers, recruit other volunteer instructors, and do their best to meet their communities’ educational demands.

"Our instructors' commitment to safety education means there are fewer recreation-related injuries and fatalities today than in the past," Paurus said. "It’s humbling to work with people who give so freely of themselves so others can learn to safely and ethically enjoy Minnesota’s natural resources."

See for a full list of safety training classes currently scheduled. Anyone interested in taking a class – or required to take one – should keep in mind that many classes fill up quickly.

firearms safety instructor and student

Mickey Raddohl - Lake Level Monitoring on Hazel Lake, Wadena County

In the late 1970's, a proposed expansion of irrigation around Hazel Lake caused Mickey Raddohl and his neighbors to wonder about the potential impacts to their lake and groundwater.  It prompted him to work with the DNR Lake Level Monitoring Program on setting a benchmark and a lake level gage in order to gather accurate facts about the fluctuations of the lake. 

Although differences between neighbors were worked out long ago, Mickey's dedication has meant he has provided an archive of over 2,600 lake level gage readings since 1979 for use by lake and watershed residents.  Mickey is the second longest lake level volunteer in the program – and is looking forward to continuing in 2019 until the lake freezes.  He also enjoys adding comments to his reports on the presence of loons, geese, and wood ducks.

According to Sandy Fecht, Ecological and Water Resources, "The information provided by 900 citizen monitors for the selected statewide gaged lakes is used by decision makers and lake users for a better understanding of our water resources and its influences from year to year."

All reported historic lake levels for over 1,450 lakes are available for the public to view and download on the DNR website, Lake Finder, on the lake's Water Levels page.

Mickey has seen the ups and downs of the lake, with the years of low, normal, or high precipitation.  He notes that "The lake this spring is at a nice level.  It's so exciting to know that future generations will look at the data we collected for future decisions."

He says that he always found the DNR easy to work with and appreciates the work the staff does.  We appreciate you recording as a citizen monitor. 

Thank you, Mickey, for over 40 years of continuous service!  We celebrate your years in providing a legacy of lake levels for generations to come to solve their future watershed issues.

Mickey Raddohl on dock

Brian Johnson – MN Biological Survey Volunteer, Sauk Rapids

Brian Johnson was a major contributor this past summer in collecting data on 47 of 50 plots monitoring tubercled rein-orchids (Platanthera flava ) in the Quarry Park Scientific and Natural Area near St Cloud.

According to Mike Lee, Botanist and Plant Ecologist, MN Biological Survey, Division of Ecological and Water Resources, Sauk Rapids, "Brian is a great volunteer with a positive attitude, good work ethic, and witty sense of humor. His greatest value to this project is his strong plant identification skills, including plants in vegetative (non-flowering) condition. Untrained botanists with his plant identifications skills are extremely rare. Brian really saved me a great deal of time on these surveys!"

Thank you, Brian, for sharing your skills with us!

brian in field using spherical densiometer

In the photo, Brian is using a spherical densiometer to measure the amount of light reaching the ground layer. The goal of this monitoring project is two-fold: 1) long-term viability for the State Threatened tubercled rein-orchid, and 2) to assess the effects of restorative management (brush removal) using various management options (fire, mechanical cutting) on the orchid's habitat. We do a number of things in these plots including counting individual orchids and recording their growth stage, mapping their precise locations so we can track individual plants from year to year, and recording detailed presence and abundance data on all the other plants in the plots. Many folks could have done the counting and mapping, but having someone who could identify all those other plants (whether they were flowering or not) was the contribution that really sets Brian's contribution apart!

Cara Foster – Climatology Volunteer, St Paul

Cara Foster became a volunteer with the Minnesota State Climatology Office in January 2018 while a student at the University of Minnesota.  She assisted with office tasks as well as special projects including frost depth data. For her senior project, she examined thunderstorm frequency from 1990 to 2017 in the Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) area.  She developed a thunderstorm climatology and assessed if there were any changes in thunderstorm counts over this time-period. Compiling the thunderstorm climatology for the Twin Cities highlighted a number of challenges to using observational thunderstorm reports, including changes in observation methods and techniques, and changes in reporting practice.

"Cara found that higher monthly temperatures may indicate a decrease in warm season thunderstorm days and an increase in cold or immediate season thunderstorm days. She found that it was difficult to determine whether Minnesota’s thunderstorm frequency is drastically changing, but consistent reporting of thunderstorms is crucial to Minnesota’s climatology and greatly influences the state’s climatological history," said Peter Boulay, State Climatologist, DNR Division of Ecological and Water Resources, St Paul.

We are grateful for the assistance Cara has given to the State Climatology office to further enhance the knowledge of Minnesota’s Climate!

Cara Foster in her office

What do DNR Volunteers do?



Download the 2018 DNR Volunteer Annual Report for a listing of all the different kinds of projects volunteers do throughout the state.

Since creating a department-wide DNR Volunteer Program in 1982, citizens have engaged in more than 11 million hours of volunteer service focused on managing our state's natural resources.

How does Minnesota rank for volunteering?

  • Minnesota ranked #2 in the nation for volunteering in 2015 with 1,560,667 volunteers donating 155.41 million hours of service at a value of $3.3 billion.
  • Minneapolis-St Paul was ranked #1 in volunteering among large cities in the U.S. The Twin Cities was ranked #2 in college students and #2 in Millennials volunteering.

Source: Corporation for National and Community Service

Minnesotans show a passion for volunteering - Fox 9 News, 6/28/17

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