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





bicyling on trail in woods

Protect the Woods – Become a Forestry Invasive Species Educator! - Postponed

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Connect with other lovers of Minnesota’s forests by volunteering at one of the great recreation events this year:

  • Outdoor Adventure Expo - April 24-26
  • CityTrail Loppet Urban Trail Run - May 17
  • Tri-Loppet & Du-Loppet Off Road Triathlon - July 18
  • Trail Loppet Urban Trail Run - September 19


Volunteers will educate people about how to have fun in Minnesota’s 59 state forests without spreading invasive species. All volunteers who complete at least one shift will receive a t-shirt, baseball cap and other goodies.


  • Must have a passion for outdoor recreation.
  • Must be able to stand for three hours.
  • Must be able to actively engage and speak with diverse audiences of people.

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Experience visiting a Minnesota state forest
  • Knowledge of invasive species such as Garlic Mustard, Spotted Knapweed and others. 
  • Experience trail running
  • Experience mountain biking
  • Experience hiking

Benefits - All volunteers who complete at least one shift will receive a:

  • T-shirt
  • Baseball cap
  • Other goodies

Events and Signup:

Contact Forest Eidbo, Forestry Invasive Species Prevention Specialist at [email protected] or 651-259-5259 with questions or if you are having trouble signing up.


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kids on the river with binoculars

Volunteer for Mississippi River Education Excursion - Postponed

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Volunteer with Project WET to teach students about the effect of human actions on the Mississippi River. The program, in partnership with the National Park Service, engages elementary students on a day-long tour on a Mississippi River paddleboat.

While on the riverboat, students learn how actions in their neighborhood may have an effect on the fourth largest watershed in the world: the Mississippi River Watershed.

As a Project WET volunteer for the day, you will:

  • Lead students in exercises that show the pathways of water as it travels from their neighborhoods through storm drains and into the Mississippi River.
  • Discuss different types of pollution, how these contaminants can be bad for the river and how these can be prevented.

Students spend half the day on the boat traveling to six different learning stations, then they get off at Fort Snelling State Park to explore the confluence of the rivers.

In recent years, Big River Journey has averaged 4,500 students annually for the experience on the river each spring and fall. Check out the Big River Journey video on the National Park Service webpage.

To volunteer for a day on the river, weekdays May 1-22, contact Janine Kohn, Project WET Coordinator, St Paul at 651-259-5905 or email [email protected]


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state park vehicle permit

Park Permits for MPR - Postponed

(Metro Area and Central MN)

If you listen to Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), you might have heard that the Minnesota state park year-round vehicle permit is the most popular gift during MPR member drives. With unlimited visits for a whole year to 75 state parks and recreation areas all around our state, it’s no wonder listeners love this incentive!

Help spread the love by helping us prepare envelopes with brochures and State Park permits for the next member drive. We are looking to work with one or two volunteers at a time.

Do you have what it takes?

  • You’re detail-oriented and love promoting beautiful places
  • You have at least 4 hours to spare in May (Contingent on COVID-19 prevention recommendations at that time) … if you have more time on your hands, we can get even more done!
  • You want to get some office time (at DNR Central Office in St. Paul)
  • You’re available Monday-Friday, between 8:30 am and 3:30 pm

What will you do?

  • Use glue dot gun to stick the permit to a card
  • Add a brochure
  • Wrap it all up with a green band
  • Put it in a branded envelope and you’re done!

What do you get?

  • Free lunch
  • Cool MPR swag
  • Training

For more information or to sign up, contact Verónica Jaralambides, Marketing Consultant, Division of Parks and Trails, St Paul, at 651-259-5583 or email [email protected]

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kids planting trees

Restore Minnesota’s Big Woods – Plant Trees May 30 - Canceled

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Join other volunteers on Saturday, May 30, 2020 in helping to plant 14,000 tree seedlings including oaks, hickories, and dogwoods in the Big Woods Heritage Forest Wildlife Management Area (WMA) located near Lonsdale.  This WMA includes some of the last remaining Big Woods habitats in Minnesota. Big Woods include deciduous trees present at the time of Euro-American settlement. We will be planting trees to strengthen the area for local wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts.

We will work in two shifts of 50 volunteers to maximize our efforts and get outside in this beautiful natural area. Volunteer shifts will be from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Water and light snacks will be provided. Feel free to bring your own lunch.


  • All volunteers must be at least 12 years of age
  • Physically able to bend, stoop and dig soil
  • Must wear close-toed shoes and long sleeves to protect against ticks and scratchy brush
  • Dress for the weather in layers of clothes
  • Bring your own reusable container for water

Event Timeline:
This event will operate differently than most Great River Greening restoration events. We will be working in two shifts to try and get as many seedlings in the ground as possible. You can either:

  • Arrive at 9:00 am and work until 12:00 pm noon OR
  • Arrive later at 1:00 pm and work until 4:00 pm.

Great River Greening staff and volunteer supervisors will be available to guide the work.

This event is located south of Lonsdale, MN at the intersection of Highway 62 and 125 Street W.  Map Location: 8636-8318 125th St W, Lonsdale, MN 55046
Additional parking instructions, as well as a detailed map, will be sent out to registered attendees. Carpooling is recommended.

Sign Up:

Register for the Restore Minnesota’s Big Woods event on the Great River Greening website.  Pre-registration is required. Registration closes May 23, 2020 at 12:00am or when space runs out.

If you'd like to register as a group (Scout Troop, employees of a company, a school group, gardening club, etc.), please contact [email protected]


Contact Great River Greening's Community Outreach Coordinator, Genna Mastellone at [email protected]  or call 651.272.3993.

This event is a partnership of the MN Department of Natural Resources, Great River Greening, Cannon River Watershed Partnership, the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and the Conservation Partners Legacy Grant Program.


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adult loon and baby

Minnesota Loon Monitoring Program: June 26 – July 6 - Continuing (Citizen Science Monitoring and Remote)

(Central, Northeast, and Northwest MN)

Help track Minnesota’s loon population! Now celebrating its 27th year, the Minnesota Loon Monitoring Program is recruiting volunteers to count the number of adult and juvenile loons on pre-selected lakes one morning between Friday June 26 and Monday July 6, 2020.

Detailed instructions, training materials, maps, volunteer application forms and a data sheet will be sent to you.

Here is what it takes to be a Loon Monitor:

  • Complete the survey on one (1) morning between June 26 and July 6, 2020.
  • Count loons and complete the survey between the hours of 5:00 a.m.-12:00 noon.
  • Commit to surveying for 2 - 4 hours per lake.
  • Return completed survey materials.


To see what lakes need a Loon Monitor or to sign up, go to the Minnesota Loon Monitoring webpage and click on the Volunteer Map button under Sign up for a lake.

Check out the survey tips and resources also listed on the webpage.

For questions or more information, call or email the following regional loon monitoring coordinators:

  • Becker or Otter Tail Counties: Contact Nettie Cole, Bemidji, 218-308-2620, [email protected]
  • Cook, Lake, or Itasca Counties: Contact Bry Persing, Eveleth, 218-735-3962, [email protected]
  • Aitkin or Crow Wing Counties: Contact Karen McLennan, Brainerd, 218-203-4352, [email protected]
  • Kandiyohi County: Contact Dorie Tess, New Ulm, 507-233-1250, [email protected]


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man in a field of garlic mustard

Group Conservation Project near Downtown St Paul - 
Check with sponsoring organization to reschedule

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Minnesota DNR and Urban Roots is partnering on a project to increase the biodiversity, bird and other wildlife habitat along the Mississippi River valley near St Paul, and you can be a part of it!  This urban area is an important corridor for migratory birds.

We are looking for groups of volunteers to help us pull buckthorn, garlic mustard and other invasive plants at the DNR Central Region Headquarters, 1200 Warner Road, St Paul, just south of Indian Mounds Park along the Mississippi River. Removing these plants will allow native plants to flourish and provide the needed food for wildlife and birds. Scheduling is flexible.

For more information and to sign up, contact David Woods, Urban Roots at [email protected]. Urban Roots is a St Paul organization whose mission is to cultivate and empower youth through nature, healthy food, and community.


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dwarf trout lily

Wildflower Ambassador at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park - Canceled

(Metro Area and Central MN, Southern MN)

Share your love and knowledge of nature with park visitors as a Wildflower Ambassador. Work with park staff on weekends to make visitors’ experience at the park educational and fun!

Here’s how:

Wildflower Ambassador – 6 weekends –mid-April through mid-May 2020 (timing is dependent on Spring bloom time):

  • Assist guests with wildflower identification of MN Dwarf Trout Lily on the trail
  • Share information with visitors about Dwarf Trout Lily’s protected status
  • Discuss the importance of staying out of the sensitive/restricted areas in order to protect this federally endangered plant
  • Keep track of visitor contacts during each shift
  • Record shift notes in the ambassador logbook
  • 2 to 4 hour shifts available on Saturdays and Sundays
  • Volunteer for one shift or multiple over the course of six weeks
  • Species overview training provided on Dwarf Trout Lily – includes identification, range, life cycle, and threats

Ambassadors need to be able to walk ½ mile downhill to the trail location.

For more information on this position, contact Emily Greger, Park Specialist, Nerstrand State Park, 9700 - 170 Street East, Nerstrand, MN 55053 at 507-384-6141or 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.


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candlelight hike

Garlic Mustard Monitoring – Lake Maria State Park - Canceled

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Work on your own, in pairs or in small groups to walk the trails of Lake Maria State Park looking for garlic mustard and other invasive plants. Help reduce the negative impacts these plants have on park habitat of crowding out native plants wildlife need to eat and thrive.


  • Walk designated park trails 1-2x per week from mid-April through mid-June to search for garlic mustard.
  • Identify garlic mustard infestations and record locations on map (paper map or option to use a smartphone app). Hand-pull infestations that appear to be manageable by hand.
  • Off-trail work is encouraged, pending comfort level of volunteer.
  • Provide updates to area resource specialist regarding phenology (i.e. when the plant begins flowering/going to seed, etc.), extent of infestation and success of control measures.

Qualifications Desired:

  • Basic plant identification skills, with ability to distinguish between garlic mustard and similar plants.
  • Able to walk 2-3 miles on/off trail over hilly terrain.
  • Able to stoop or squat for long periods of time while hand-pulling weeds.
  • Able to read and interpret field maps and accurately report location information.
  • Able to navigate off-trail.

Time Commitment

  • This will vary depending on the life stage of garlic mustard with less time needed early in the season.
  • Ideally, volunteers will commit to visiting the park 1-2 times per week for 1-3 hours per visit for the duration of project.

Training provided:

  • Plant identification and garlic mustard control methods.
  • How to use the Avenza maps app in the field.

For more information on this position, contact Deanna Leigh, Area Resource Specialist, at 320-223-7860 or email [email protected]

Lake Maria State Park is located at 11411 Clementa Ave NW, Monticello, MN 55632


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Improve Habitat for Wildlife on a WMA - Postponed

(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.


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candlelight hike

Earth Day Event – Park Project Day April 25 - Canceled

(Southern MN)

Be part of Earth Day by helping with projects to beautify Whitewater State Park on Saturday April 25, 12 noon – 3 PM. Up to 40 volunteers can take part!

Bring the whole family or work in small teams to:

  • Plant and mulch trees
  • Prepare the butterfly garden for summer
  • Clean the park bird feeding station
  • Pick up litter and more!

You must be able to:

  • Walk along uneven terrain
  • Bend over
  • Hold and operate various hand tools (rakes, shovels, pruners, etc.)

For more information or to sign up, contact Sara Holger, Lead Interpretive Naturalist,
Whitewater State Park, 19041 Highway 74 Altura MN 55910 at 507-312-2308 or email [email protected]


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candlelight hike

Save the Bluebells at Carley State Park! - Canceled

(Southern MN)

In the spring, delicate bluebells and other wildflowers carpet the valley with color in Carley State Park. Help us remove invasive garlic mustard that threatens to crowd out the bluebells. We will train you on what to look for and how to properly remove the plants.  Plants will be composted under a tarp on site.


  • Remove garlic mustard from infested locations.
  • Track locations and how many bags of garlic mustard are removed using form provided.

Qualifications Desired:

  • Must be able to walk along uneven terrain to monitor trails for garlic mustard.
  • Must be able to bend over to pull plants.

Time Commitment:

  • Late April – June. 
  • Time commitment for this project is very flexible and can work within your schedule.

Training provided on garlic mustard identification and removal methods, tick safety and hazardous plant safety.

For more information contact Sara Holger, Lead Interpretive Naturalist, Whitewater State Park, 19041 Hwy 74, Altura MN 55910 at 507-312-2308
or email [email protected]      

Carley State Park is located 10 miles NW of Whitewater State Park.


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people clipping parsnips

Whitewater State Park Wild Parsnip Pull – June 27 - Canceled

(Southern MN)

Be part of the annual Wild Parsnip Pull on Saturday, June 27, 2020 from 8 am – 12 Noon. Help remove wild parsnip, an invasive exotic species that causes phyto-photo dermatitis (rashes and blisters) when the oil of the plant comes in contact with skin and is exposed to sunlight. Help us remove this nasty plant from high-use areas of the park, specifically the campgrounds and areas around the visitor center.
You will be provided with:

  • Safety gloves
  • Weed wrenches
  • Training on how to safely pull plants
  • and LUNCH!

You must be physically able to:

  • Stand for up to 4 hours
  • Bend over
  • Carry spades, shovels or other tools needed

Approximately 40 volunteers are needed, so invite your friends and bring a group!

For more information contact Sara Holger, Lead Interpretive Naturalist, Whitewater State Park, 19041 Hwy 74, Altura MN 55910 at 507-312-2308
or email [email protected]


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making cookies

Make 100 Tree Cookies - Continuing (Citizen Science Monitoring and Remote)

(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.

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campground hosts

Campground Host Program - Canceled

(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.

Check out the 2020 campground host schedule for openings! Over 250 openings now available!

Picked out a location? Fill out your campground host application here PDF. 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!

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.


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deer in woods

Adopt-a-WMA Program - Postponed

(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.

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


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sna hillside

Get Physical on a State Natural Area - Postponed

(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!

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minnesota master naturalist logo

Be a Master Naturalist - Canceled

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

To learn more visit www.MinnesotaMasterNaturalist.org


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Lake Level Minnesota volunteering... doing your level best! - Continuing (Citizen Science Monitoring and Remote)

(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


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firearms safety class

Volunteer Safety Instructors - Postponed

(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.


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zebra mussels

Zebra Mussel Monitoring Program - Continuing (Citizen Science Monitoring and Remote)

(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 .


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