Volunteering opportunities

Volunteers for the DNR

Find a volunteering opportunity in your area:


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What do DNR Volunteers do?

Click on the video above to find out!

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 1988, citizens have engaged in more than 11.3 million hours of volunteer service focused on managing our state's natural resources.


Metro area and Central MN
Northwestern MN
Northeastern MN
Southern MN


METRO AREA AND CENTRAL MINNESOTA - Winter 2019-2020

NORTHWESTERN MINNESOTA - Winter 2019-2020

NORTHEASTERN MINNESOTA - Winter 2019-2020

SOUTHERN MINNESOTA - Winter 2019-2020


candlelight hike

New Year’s Eve Candlelight Walk Event – Fort Snelling State Park, Dec 31

(Metro Area and Central MN)

It’s happening! Grab your family and friends, pack your hat and mittens, and throw on your long-johns for a fun family-friendly New Year’s celebration in the park. Volunteer to light miles of trails, hand out hundreds of cups of hot drinks, watch several bonfires, and assist thousands of park visitors celebrating the end of 2019 and ringing in 2020 at Fort Snelling State Park!

Up to 50 volunteers are needed to assist with this event. Children 15 and younger may volunteer with an adult chaperone. Customer service experience is preferred, but not necessary.  Volunteer for as little as 2 hours or more! So mark your calendars and consider volunteering some time before, during, or after the event.

Volunteer opportunities:

Tuesday, December 31
(10 am- 12 pm)

  • Luminary set out:  Walk the event trails and set out the luminaries. Dress for the weather! (20 volunteers)

(2 pm- 4 pm)

  • Luminary lighting: Join us before the event starts to light hundreds of candles and create a magical experience for hundreds of park visitors on the last night of 2019. (10 volunteers)

Tuesday, December 31 (4-8 pm)

  • S’mores bonfire attendant near the Visitor Center. An outside assignment to monitor s’mores supplies and keeps the bonfire roaring! (6 volunteers in two hour shifts: 4-6 PM or 6-8 PM)
  • Hot beverage server. An inside assignment dispensing hot cocoa. (8 volunteers in 2 hour shifts: 4-6 PM or 6-8 PM)
  • Luminary re-lighting. Hike the beautiful candlelit trails and re-light and/or replace any candles that have gone out. (6 volunteers)

New Year’s Day, Wednesday, January 1, 2020!  1 – 3 pm

  • Be the first to hike the trails in the New Year!
  • Help us collect luminaries and candles.
  • Dress for the weather and bring a sled to help collect supplies. (10 volunteers)

To Sign Up:

  • Fill out an application for each (your info will be saved and will be pre-filled for subsequent applications if you want to do more than one activity)
  • A background check is required

For more information contact Krista Jensen, Lead Naturalist, Fort Snelling State Park, 101 Snelling Lake Road, St. Paul at 612-725-2724 x223 or email [email protected]

Fort Snelling State Park is located on Post Road off State Highway 5, just west of the main terminal exit for the International Airport.


candle on a table

Luce Line State Trail Candlelight Walk - January 3

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Enjoy the winter season as you help with the preparations for the one-mile Luce Line State Trail Candlelight Walk, Friday January 3, 2020. The event begins in Plymouth at the intersection of Vicksburg Lane and the Luce Line State Trail.

Recommended parking is at the parking area off of Vicksburg Lane. (Vicksburg Ln N to 10th Ave N.) Parking area is on the left.

Volunteer to:

  • Set out candles and light them, 3-5 PM
  • Hike the trails to relight them, 5 – 8 PM
  • Serve hot cider and refreshments, 5 – 8 PM
  • Oversee a bonfire, 3 – 8 PM
  • Pick up the candles again at the end of the evening, 8 – 9 PM
  • Help with other cleanup from the event, 8 – 9 PM 

Shifts will start at 3 PM and continue throughout the evening until 9 PM.  The walk is from 5-8 PM.

Any length of shift is appreciated. Volunteer for the entire evening or just a part of it.  Please request your preferred task and time. Training will be provided.

You must be comfortable working in the outdoor environment, i.e. being physically able, and wearing warm winter clothing as needed.  Backpacks are also helpful for carrying candle materials for those helping directly on the trail. 

This would be a great group activity as upwards of 10 volunteers are needed for this event.  Older kids are welcome to volunteer with parents – families will work together.

For more information contact Linda Radimecky, Naturalist, at 651-231-6968 or email [email protected]


Candlelight by Gateway Trail sign

Gateway State Trail Annual Candlelight Event – January 24

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Volunteers will help with the preparations for the Annual Candlelight Hike Event on the Gateway State Trail, Friday January 24, 2020.  The event will begin in Mahtomedi at the intersection of the Gateway State Trail and Hwy 12 near Wildwood Elementary School, 8698 75th St N, Stillwater, MN 55082.  Parking is available in the school lot.

Up to 10 volunteers will:

  • set out candles, 3:00 – 4:30 PM
  • hike the trail lighting and relighting candles, 4:30 – 7:30 PM
  • pick up candles at the end of the evening, 8:00 – 9:00 PM

Volunteers are also needed to assist with serving refreshments, overseeing a bonfire, and cleanup from the event.

Volunteer for the entire evening or just one of the times.  Please request your preferred task/time. Any length of shift is appreciated. Training will be provided. 

Older kids are welcome to volunteer with parents – families will work together. 

Volunteers must be comfortable working in the outdoor environment, i.e. being physically able, and wearing warm winter clothing as needed, etc.   Backpacks are also helpful for carrying candle materials.  Dress appropriately for cold weather.

For more information contact Linda Radimecky, Naturalist, at 651-231-6968 or email [email protected]


Candlelight ski ice candle

Candlelight Event at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park – February 1

(Metro Area and Central MN, Southern MN)

Join us in creating a magical night of cross country skiing or snowshoeing (or walking, if there is no snow) on trails lit by the warm glow of luminaries!  Listen for the barred owl at dusk and other winter night sounds. Hot beverages will warm your fingers and toes when you return to the Visitor Center!

Help is needed on Saturday, February 1, 2020, between the hours of 4:00 - 9:30 PM.  Up to 35 - 40 volunteers are needed for this event.  This would be a great group activity!  The event itself runs from 5:00 – 8:00 PM. Snowshoes are available to rent. 

Volunteer roles include:

  • Light candles along 4 miles of flat trail and shorter loops from 4:00 – 5:00 PM
  • Direct cars where to park from 4:30 – 7:30 PM
  • Act as crossing guards for County Road 29 (2 locations) from 5:00 – 8:00 PM
  • Maintain lighted candles on the trail between 5:30 – 8:30 PM
  • Tend to the bonfire from 4:30 – 8:00 PM
  • Clean up and pick up candles at the end of the evening from 8:00 – 9:30 PM

You need to be comfortable in dark, forested situations and physically able to work a minimum 2-hour shift outside in the cold weather.  You must be able to hike or snowshoe easy to moderate trails under winter conditions.

Instructions will be sent beforehand through email, as well as on-the-job training on event day.

For more information, contact Emily Greger, Park Specialist, Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, 9700 - 170 Street East, Nerstrand, MN 55053 at 507 384-6144 or email [email protected]

Directions to Nerstrand Big Woods State Park: 
Take I-35 to State Highway 19 east into Northfield. Go south on State Highway 3, east on State Highway 246, then turn right onto County Road 29 and follow the signs.


snow shoeing

Afton State Park Candlelight Hike/Snowshoe Event – February 1

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Enjoy the crisp winter weather by taking part in the preparations for the Afton State Park Candlelight Hike and Snowshoe Event on Saturday February 1, 2020

Volunteer Duties:  
Up to 10 volunteers will:

  • Set out candles and light them, 3 – 5 PM
  • Hike the trail relighting candles, 5 – 8 PM
  • Pick up candles at the end of the evening, 8 – 9 PM 

 

Training will be provided. Volunteer for the entire evening or just one of these times.  Please request your preferred task and time. Any length of shift is appreciated. Older kids are welcome to volunteer with parents – families will work together. 

Volunteers must be comfortable working in the outdoor environment being physically able and wearing warm winter clothing as appropriate.   Dress for cold weather. 

Afton State Park is located at 6959 Peller Ave South, Hastings, MN 55033, just miles east of Woodbury.

For more information contact Linda Radimecky, Naturalist, at 651-231-6968 or email [email protected]


Copier scanning equipment

Scanning – Build Your Office Skills

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Build your office skills and beef up the work experience on your resume by coming into the DNR Central Office in St Paul to assist staff in converting paper documents into electronic files. Volunteer to scan and index paid invoices dated from July 1, 2019 to the current date.

Qualifications Desired:

  • Ability to organize files
  • Entry level clerical experience
  • Basic computer skills

Training will be provided and all work will be done at the DNR Central Office, 500 Lafayette Rd, St Paul.  This positon has a flexible schedule within the hours of 8 AM to 4 PM, Monday – Friday, until the backlog is complete.  Any amount of time is appreciated.

For more information, contact Toni Golden, Accounts Payable Supervisor, at 651-259-5566 or email [email protected]


otter

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 [email protected]  for scheduling specific days to volunteer.

 


split rock lighthouse in winter

Split Rock Lighthouse Candlelight Snowshoe & Hike Event - Feb 1

(Northeastern MN)

Enjoy the beautiful winter scenery at the annual candlelight snowshoe and hike event at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park in Two Harbors on Saturday, February 1, 2020 from 6:00 – 8:30 PM. Experience the park in a unique outdoors setting that is not usually available on trails at night!

Join in the fun and contact us to sign up for one of these exciting volunteer opportunities:

candles on bridge

Candle Engineer:

  • Set out and light luminaries (these are candles placed in cups or bags along the 2 miles of trail). Meet at the Trail Center at 4 PM for instructions and supplies. Set up last about two hours.
  • Several teams of engineers are needed to complete this task.
  • Headlamps are essential if you sign up for the pick-up activity from 8:30 – 9:30 PM

Fire Tender (adults only): 

  • Armed with extra candles and lighters, you keep the luminaries glowing along the trails throughout the event. Bring a backpack to carry supplies and a headlamp.
  • Additional volunteers are needed to tend warming campfires.
  • Clean up lasts about an hour.

All volunteers must be physically able to travel over challenging terrain and comfortable working in cold conditions. Remember to dress appropriately for the weather conditions. Bring snowshoes, winter boots, and a backpack or sled if helping set up or take down the trails. Don’t forget your headlamp! 

Volunteer for the entire evening or for a minimum time commitment of 2 hours. Please request your preferred task and time between 4:00 – 9:30 PM.  Training will be provided. 

This would be a great group activity as upwards of 10 - 15 volunteers are needed!  Volunteer abilities will be matched and older children are welcome to team up with their friends and a parent. Help us make it a magical event!

Note: This event may be canceled or changed due to poor weather or wind conditions on the day of the event. For updates, including event details, weather updates and directions to the park, call 218-595-7625 or check the visitor alert online at www.mndnr.gov/splitrocklighthouse

For more information and to sign up, contact Katie Foshay, Unit Supervisor, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, 3755 Split Rock Lighthouse Road, Two Harbors MN 55616 at 218-595-7621 or email [email protected]


Candlelight ski skiers

Candlelight Ski, Snowshoe, Hiking Event - Gooseberry Falls State Park, February 15

(Northeastern MN)

Help create an amazing winter memory at Gooseberry Falls State Park’s Annual Candlelight Event, Saturday, February 15, 2020 near Two Harbors. Candle luminaries guide you on several miles of ski, snowshoe and hiking trails. A bonfire and hot beverages await visitors after their explorations. Special luminary displays are created along the trails and we need inspired volunteers like you to set them up!

Bring something to share at the Volunteer Potluck (after setup around 5:30 PM), then go with your family or friends to enjoy the trails or sit by the fire in the Visitor Center!

 

Qualifications:

  • Must be able to have FUN while working with others outdoors!
  • Must be physically able to travel over challenging terrain and comfortable working in cold conditions for a period of time.
  • Remember to dress appropriately for the weather conditions.
  • Bring skis or snowshoes as well as a backpack or sled to carry supplies.
  • Headlamps are also essential!

Volunteer for the entire evening or for a minimum time commitment of 2 hours. Please request your preferred task/time.  Training will be provided. 

This would be a great group activity as upwards of 30-40 volunteers are needed for this event!  The more, the merrier!!!  Help us make this event amazing!

Join in the fun and contact us to sign up for one of these exciting volunteer opportunities:

SETUP 3:45 – 5:45 PM (arrive at Visitor Center for instructions and supplies)

lighting a luminary

Candle Engineer:

  • Set out and light luminaries (these are candles placed in cups or bags along the trail).
  • You need the ability to travel over a variety of terrain in skis, snowshoes or winter boots and be comfortable working in winter conditions for a period of time.
  • Volunteer abilities will be matched and split up into teams to cover all trails.
  • Children are welcome to help (families will work together).

 
Luminary Designer:

  • Create several unique luminary (candlelight) displays to surprise and delight event participants.
  • You will need to travel by skis or snowshoes to the designated locations.
  • You must be comfortable working in winter conditions.
  • Sign up is required for this SPECIAL volunteer experience.
  • Each team must include one adult volunteer.

MAINTENANCE 6:00 – 8:00 PM

Fire Tender (Adults Only): 

  • Armed with extra candles and lighters, you keep the luminaries glowing along the trails throughout the event.
  • Bring a backpack to carry supplies and a headlamp.
  • Majority of the trails will require skis or snowshoes to assist.
  • Additional adult volunteers are needed to tend the bonfire.

TAKEDOWN 8:00 – 9:00 PM (meet at the Visitor Center at 8 pm for instructions)

Maintenance Maverick:  8:00 – 9:00 PM (Arrive early for the potluck if you want to help with only this part of the evening.)

  • Meet at the Visitor Center at 8 PM for instructions.
  • Work in teams to extinguish and remove trail and display luminaries after the event.
  • Work in teams to assist with clean up either on the trails or at the bonfire.
  • Majority of the trails will require skis or snowshoes to assist.
  • Headlamps are essential for this activity.

The event may be cancelled or changed at the last minute due to poor weather or wind conditions on the day of the event. Sign-up allows us to contact you about changes.

For more information and to sign up, contact Nick Hoffmann, Assistant Park Manager, Gooseberry Falls State Park, 3206 Hwy 61, Two Harbors MN 55616 at 218-595-7107 or email [email protected]

Directions:  From the town of Two Harbors, follow State Highway 61 northeast approximately 13 miles to the park.


campground hosts

Campground Host at a MN State Park

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

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live or work in a state park? Well, why not find out? For over 30 years, volunteers have served as "live-in" hosts at Minnesota state parks or state forest campgrounds. If you enjoy the great outdoors, scenic vistas, and the company of other campers, then consider being a host anytime from April to October. Length of time, 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!

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 with naturalist programs by:

  • posting and distributing schedules
  • publicizing programs
  • helping with programs

As a Campground Host, you will generally work independently. You are accountable to the park manager who will provide training and orientation and will assist you throughout the season with any questions or problems that may arise. You will set an example by being a model camper, practicing good housekeeping at all times in and around the host site, and by observing all rules.

Read more about the Campground Host Program.

Need internet access? These are the locations for you! They all have wireless internet in selected areas. You can also contact our park staff to find out wi-fi friendly locations.

Picked out a location? Fill out your campground host application here. Applications are accepted all year long, but must be received at least 30 days prior to the date you wish to begin serving as a host. Look at the campground reservation map for details like these, about your site!

The 2020 campground host schedule is coming soon. 

Email your questions to [email protected]  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.

 


deer in woods

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.

Commitment:

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!




making cookies

Make 100 Tree Cookies

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

Attention: Aspiring and experienced woodworkers!
Help classroom teachers across Minnesota teach children how trees and other woody plants grow, factors that affect tree growth, and tree identification. Teachers love having sets of cookies like these in their classrooms but don’t have time or tools to make them.
We need volunteers to create "tree cookies" -- slices of branches or trunks that show the rings of a tree. 100 cookies supplies three classes of students, so the more you can make, the better. They will be used!
How to Make Tree Cookies:

  • Using branches or trunks that are between 3 to 6 inches in diameter, slice into ½-inch thick, wafer-shaped "cookies."
  • Wood having with easily readable rings are preferred. Ash wood not accepted.
  • 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.

You must provide your own tree or woody plant material, saws, sander, oven, varnish, and labor.

This project can be done individually or with a group (scouts, 4-H, FFA, Kiwanis, etc.). Eagle Scouts may be required to make larger quantities.

When finished contact Laura Duffey, 651-259-5263, [email protected] to arrange for delivery and to get Minnesota DNR recognition.


burning 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


The Minnesota Master Naturalist Program is managed by the University of Minnesota Extension.


schotzco

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, the process begins online:  Get started now! And check out upcoming safety instructor courses.  There is no fee to attend.


zebra mussels

Zebra Mussel Monitoring Program

(NE, NW, Southern, Metro area and Central 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 .