Winter Volunteering opportunities

Volunteers for the DNR

What do DNR volunteers do?

Click on the video below to find out!

Download the 2022 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, Minnesotans have engaged in more than 12.5 million hours of volunteer service adding $238 million in value focused on managing our state's natural resources.


Find a volunteering opportunity in your area

Click on the latest opportunities to learn more.

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North Shore Candlelight Event at Gooseberry Falls State Park – Feb 17, 2024

Create an amazing memory this winter! Plan to join us at this popular event located along the north shore of Lake Superior.

Sign up to volunteer for a minimum of 2 hours at Gooseberry Falls State Park's annual Candlelight Event on Saturday, February 17, 2024, at 3206 Highway 61 East, Two Harbors, Minnesota.

What will be happening

  • Candle luminaries guide visitors on several miles of ski, snowshoe and hiking trails.
  • Special luminary displays are created along the trails and we need inspired volunteers like you to set them up.
  • A bonfire and hot beverages await visitors after their explorations.
two men sking along trail alside luminaries.

Volunteer fun

  • Join us at the Volunteer Potluck after setting up around 5-6 pm. You are welcome to bring something to share.
  • Make sure to save time to enjoy the event with your family or friends.
  • Join in the fun and sign up for one of these exciting volunteer opportunities.

Qualifications and Equipment Needed

  • Ability to have fun while working with others outdoors!
  • Physically able to travel over challenging terrain and comfortable working in cold conditions for up to 2 hours.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather conditions.
  • Bring skis or snowshoes, backpack or sled, and headlamp if helping set up or take down the trails.

Time Commitment
Minimum of 2 hours on Saturday, February 17, 2024, between the hours of 3:45 - 9:30 pm.

Bad weather
This event may be canceled 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.

SIGN UP

  • Select on the link listed after each position title to find out more information and apply.
  • Fill in an application (this creates your volunteer profile account).
  • Please note that this application will time out after 30 minutes of no activity.
  • Once you have created an account in the system, sign up for the position. 

Make note of the username and password you create for this site so you can go back to update your profile, check your schedule, take your safety training, email your volunteer coordinator with questions and apply for other DNR volunteer opportunities at any time.  This will be your DNR Volunteer profile from now on. Log in to MyImpactPage.com to access anytime.

Candle Engineer application: https://bttr.im/ygvc2

  • 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 up to 2 hours. 3:45 – 6:00 PM
  • Volunteer abilities will be matched and older children are welcome to team up with their friends and a parent.
  • Children are welcome to help (families will work together).

Luminary Designer application: https://bttr.im/rr0ps

  • 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. Bring a backpack or sled to carry supplies.
  • You must be comfortable working in winter conditions.
  • Sign up is required for this SPECIAL volunteer experience from 3:45 – 6:00 PM.
  • Each team must include one adult volunteer.

Fire Tender application:  https://bttr.im/vj9pd

  • Armed with extra candles and lighters, you keep the luminaries glowing along the trails throughout the event from 6:00 – 8:00 PM.
  • 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.

Maintenance Maverick application: https://bttr.im/xosj8
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 or clean up at the bonfire.
  • Majority of the trails will require skis or snowshoes to assist.
  • Headlamps are essential for this activity.
  • Clean up lasts about an hour.  8:00 – 9:30 PM

Questions?
For more information and questions, 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]


MN PlantWatch

Contribute to plant conservation science by surveying rare plants with the MN PlantWatch Program.  Opportunities are available throughout the entire state of Minnesota. Together we hope to update old records and find new populations! This program is a partnership between the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

We are looking for volunteers who are:

  • Enthusiastic about plants and comfortable identifying plants in nature, or willing to learn
  • Interested and able to visit some of the tricky places that rare plants inhabit, including bluff prairies, bogs, fens and forests 
  • Familiar with field survey work and understand the importance of high-quality data collection
  • Comfortable working outdoors alongside MN PlantWatch staff and other volunteers

To learn more about MN PlantWatch, please visit the program website.

two people flagging plants.

Bird by Bird Volunteer Program

Help foster meaningful experiences for youth and communities to connect to nature and nourish a love of birds and wildlife by becoming a volunteer in the Bird by Bird Program.

What can I do as a Bird by Bird volunteer?

  • Volunteer in elementary schools and assist with educational activities and field trips
  • Mentor high school students during their field experiences
  • Engage families and communities in bird watching, bird walks, and bird education related activities co-led by high school students as BOLD youth leaders in the Birding & Outdoor Leadership Development initiative OR
  • Work behind the scenes on volunteer projects that support the program such as
    • Deliver bird seed and program supplies to schools
    • Help develop curriculum
    • Install and maintain bird feeding stations OR
    • Support field trips
Bird watchers in a state park

What is required of me to do this?

  • Be an adult 21 years of age or older and pass a background check
  • Have experience with and/or the strong desire to work with youth and engage with communities
  • Have some knowledge or the willingness to learn about birds of Minnesota and then share this information with students, young adults, and community members
  • Meet program participants where they are and foster a welcoming learning space
  • Have the ability and desire to lead or assist bird/nature walks for community and students
  • Share your enthusiasm and willingness to learn alongside participants and other volunteers

When will this happen? (dependent on the type of volunteering selected):

  • Monday-Friday daytime hours for classroom projects starting October 16, 2023 – May 24, 2024. (You can still join even though it has started already.)
  • Weekend daytime and evening hours for community events
  • Minimum of 2–4 hours (Varies by project)

Where will this take place?

  • School programs take place at various elementary school locations in the St. Paul and Minneapolis Public School districts.
  • The location for youth leader field experiences varies based on project hosts.

You must have your own transportation to assigned schools, community events, or field experience sites.

How do I sign up?

Go to the Bird by Bird activity signup to indicate your interest.

Questions?

For more information contact May Vang, Bird by Bird Program Lead, Ecological and Water Resources/Nongame Wildlife Program at [email protected] or 651-259 – 5156.

Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).


Adopt-a-WMA program

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 wildlife managers.

State wildlife management area sign

Time Commitment:

  • Projects 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

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
  • Maintain forest openings

Level 3: (volunteer work requiring certifications/licenses, training or close supervision)

  • Using power tools
  • Chainsaw work
  • Mowing noxious weeds
  • Mowing prescribed fire breaks
  • Mowing hunter walking trails
  • Helping with a prescribed burn

NOTE: 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  or maps of Assistant Area Wildlife Managers and Area Wildlife Managers. Contact them to find out how you can adopt a WMA!


Campground host program - 2024

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!

Husband and wife standing by campground host sign

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.2024 campground host openings will be posted in spring.

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.

Email your questions to [email protected] (link sends email) or call 888- MINNDNR (888-646-6367) or in the Metro area call 651-259-5607.

Note: Campground Hosts are selected from applications that have been satisfactorily completed and submitted in a timely manner.Interviews are 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 at the time of selection. This also applies to hosts returning from the previous season.


Get physical on a Scientific and Natural Area

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

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

Projects are typically carried out on Saturdays from 10:00 AM to 2:00 p.m., unless otherwise noted, on many weekends throughout the year. Refer to SNA events calendar for the most up-to-date information.

Take a look at volunteering on SNAs to see how you can come lend a hand!

two people burning a brush pile.

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

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

man holding his dog on a dock by a gauge.

Volunteer rainfall monitors

  • Do you have an interest in the weather? 
  • Are you looking for a way to do something for the environment from your location? 
  • Or how about a great classroom or family activity that provides an easy way for kids to get involved with science? 

Volunteer as a rainfall monitor for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) coordinated through the state climatology office in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

person standing by rain gauge

The network includes more than 20,000 volunteers nationwide who measure rainfall in their backyards using a standard 4-inch diameter rain gauge and submit their reports online. The program also collects snowfall and reports hail among other weather observations. The data is used by the National Weather Service, researchers, cities and a wide range of industries.

Data provided by volunteers:

  • Verifies high rainfall totals after big events
  • Provides critical information during flooding events
  • Monitors drought conditions
  • Provides needed guidance on Minnesota's changing climate

To become a Rainfall Monitor, you must:

  • Have internet access to submit reports by computer or using the CoCoRaHS Observer weather app on your smartphone
  • Provide or purchase a standard 4-inch rain gauge (discounts are available through CoCoRaHS)
  • Complete online training on how to observe weather trends and how to submit precipitation and weather event reports online
  • Commit to submitting reports for at least one season

Volunteers are particularly needed in Greater Minnesota outside the Twin Cities metro area.

To sign up:

Join our weather team today!


Volunteer safety instructors

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.

Find out more about how to become a DNR Certified Volunteer Safety Instructor.

If you would like to receive an automatic e-mail of any new instructor training sessions, sign up for the instructor e-mail list.

person sitting on snowmbile

Sign up for updates  
Text MNDNR VOLUNTEER to 66468 to subscribe to text updates.


Safety guidelines

Please refer to the Volunteer Safety Resources webpage training.

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