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 2020 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 12.3 million hours of volunteer service adding $230 million in value focused on managing our state's natural resources.

COVID-19 Safety Guidelines

Please refer to the Volunteer Safety Resources webpage for COVID-19 training and health screening protocols.


Metro area and Central MN

Northwestern MN

Northeastern MN

Southern MN


METRO AREA AND CENTRAL MINNESOTA - Spring 2021

NORTHWESTERN MINNESOTA - Spring 2021

NORTHEASTERN MINNESOTA - Spring 2021

SOUTHERN MINNESOTA - Spring 2021


Volunteer Rainfall Monitors

(Metro Area and Central MN, Northeast, Northwest, Southern MN)

Do you have an interest in the weather?  Are you looking for a way to volunteer safely from home?  Or how about a great 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. The network includes more than 20,000 volunteers nationwide who measure precipitation in their backyards using a standard 4-inch diameter rain gauge and submit their reports online.

Data provided by volunteers:

  • verifies high rainfall totals after big events,
  • provides critical information during flooding events,
  • monitors drought conditions and
  • provides needed guidance on Minnesota’s changing climate.

To become a Rainfall Monitor, you must:

  • Have internet access to submit reports
  • Purchase or provide 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

Volunteers are particularly needed outside the immediate Twin Cities metro area.

For more info or to sign up:

The website includes lesson plans for STEM students and instructional videos for all participants.

 

man with rain gage

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Prairie Plantings on Wildlife Management Areas – May 2021

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Come individually, with your family, or those you live with in the same household to enjoy fresh air, exercise, and the reward of "giving back" by helping to restore native prairie plants on a wildlife management area! These plants will improve the habitat for area wildlife such as small game, waterfowl, pheasants, turkeys, doves and upland birds to nest, shelter and feed.

The Sauk Rapids DNR Wildlife staff are looking for volunteers to assist with prairie bare root plug plantings within the following date ranges:

  • May 19 – 24, 2021

Planting will happen at these locations:

Volunteer requirements:

  • You must be physically capable of walking over uneven ground, bending, stooping and carrying objects.
  • Bring your own water bottle, snacks and garden hand trowel.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather in layers, gloves, hats, and boots.
  • Members of different households must maintain 6 feet of separation from each other.
  • Face coverings must be worn if social distancing cannot be maintained with other volunteers or staff.

To sign up:
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.

 

pheasant

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Minnesota Loon Monitoring Program: July 2 - 12

(Central, Northeast, and Northwest MN)

Help track Minnesota’s loon population! Now celebrating its 28th 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 July 2 and Monday July 12, 2021.

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 July 2 - 12, 2021.
  • 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 Jerica Loken, Fergus Falls, 218-671-7977, [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]
loon

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Improve Habitat for Wildlife on a WMA in Stearns, Wright or Sherburne County

(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 families 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:

  • Plant Bare Root Prairie Forb Plugs at North Fork WMA or Norman T. Dahlman WMA (Stearns County)
  • 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

COVID-19 safety measures will be followed for volunteering based on the most recent CDC guidelines and Governor Emergency Executive Orders.

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.

deer

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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 .

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!

wma sign

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Campground Host Program

(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!

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. Look at the campground reservation map for details like these, about your site!

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.

campground hosts

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Get Physical on a State Natural Area - Refer to SNA events calendar for the most up-to-date information

(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!

sna volunteers

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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

Steve Ward

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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.

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.

 

atv safety patch

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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 .

zebra mussels

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