Fall 2023 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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Bird by Bird Volunteer Program: Starting Oct 16

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.

As a Bird by Bird volunteer you will:

  • Spark and support student’s interests in birds and wildlife through hands-on indoor and outdoor exploration.
  • Assist the program lead and/or lead education activities in classrooms.
  • Learn alongside and make a difference in a youth and/or young adult’s life through mentorship.
  • Support program logistics.
Bird watchers in a state park

Choose what kind of volunteer opportunity you want to be involved with at school locations within the St. Paul and Minneapolis Public School districts.

Volunteers have the option of:

  • Volunteering in elementary schools and assisting in education activities and field trips.
  • Mentoring high school students during their field experiences.
  • Engaging 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.
  • Working 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.
    • Support field trips.

Qualifications needed:

  • Adult 21 years of age or older and must pass a background check.
  • Experience with and/or the strong desire to work with youth and engage with communities.
  • Some knowledge or willingness to learn about birds of Minnesota and the willingness to share this information with students, young adults, and community members.
  • Ability to meet program participants where they are and foster a welcoming learning space.
  • Ability and desire to lead or assist bird/nature walks for community and students.
  • Enthusiasm and the willingness to learn alongside participants and other volunteers.

Time commitment (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 if it has started already.)
  • Weekend daytime and evening hours for community events.
  • Minimum hours – Varies by project (2- 4 hours)

Volunteering sites:

  • 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.
  • Volunteers must be able to transport themselves to assigned schools, community event, and field experience sites.

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

Campground host program

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!

man and women 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. 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!

women bent over pulling invasive species from the ground.

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.

view of the sky with sun peering through the clouds.

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.

teacher looking over the shoulder of a student who is shooting

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Safety guidelines

Please refer to the Volunteer Safety Resources webpage training.

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