DNR conservation officers receive awards

Six conservation officers with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources were honored at Camp Ripley, Tuesday, Feb. 2, for outstanding performance and service in 2015.

The DNR named Conservation Officer Jeff Johanson of Osakis Officer of the Year. This prestigious award is presented annually to an officer based upon overall career performance with emphasis on the officer’s previous job evaluation period.

“Officer Johanson understands the importance of maintaining the balance in today’s conservation law enforcement, as we strive to gain voluntary compliance through education, outreach, and enforcement,” said Col. Rodmen Smith, DNR Enforcement Division director. “He has proven that he can successfully manage sensitive issues between stakeholders and the DNR.”

A conservation officer since 2001, Johanson has always stepped up to take on special duties and extra projects.

He is a field training officer, use of force instructor, Glock armorer, as well as a member of the Enforcement Division’s equipment and uniform committees. He also recently served as the Conservation Officer Academy coordinator.

Other honors included:
Conservation Officer Phil George of Rochester was recipient of the Education Achievement Award. The award recognizes an officer based on overall career performance with emphasis on involvement in the division’s education programs; support and involvement with volunteer instructors; and educational efforts through the media and special presentations.

“His knowledge and ability to teach people proper safety education assures that our outdoor enthusiasts – kids and adults – know the laws, ethics and responsibilities of safe hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation,” Smith said.

Conservation Officer Tony Salzer of Ham Lake received the Waterfowl Enforcement Achievement Award. The annual award is presented to a conservation officer dedicated to protecting Minnesota’s natural resources, serving the public and preserving our waterfowl heritage.

“His outreach and educational efforts include spending extra time during firearms safety training discussing the importance of waterfowl identification, along with teaching an outdoor adventure class at a local school district where waterfowl is a center point,” Smith said.

Water Resource Enforcement Officer Larry Hanson accepted the Willard Munger Wetland Achievement Award. The award is named after the long-time legislator who died in 1999 leaving a 43-year legacy of environmental activism to the people of Minnesota.

Conservation Officer Chad Thesing of Albany earned the Boat and Water Safety Achievement Award. The honor is based on demonstrated leadership abilities and outstanding achievements in boating safety education, boating while intoxicated enforcement, and service to other law enforcement agencies.

The Meritorious Service Award was presented to Conservation Officer David Schottenbauer of Silver Bay who served as Conservation Officer Academy director from 2011 to 2014.

The DNR’s Enforcement Division employs about 186 licensed peace officers responsible for recreational law enforcement and protecting the natural resources of Minnesota. The division has its headquarters in St. Paul where it operates 18 law enforcement districts throughout the state.