The 19th class of candidates to take part in the Department of Natural Resources’ Conservation Officer Academy has begun training at Camp Ripley.
This year’s class includes 14 recruits who bring with them a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. Some of them have been sheriff’s deputies and police officers, while others serve for the Minnesota National Guard or decided to make a career change and study to become a conservation officer.
“As with all the men and women who’ve proudly served this division and the people of Minnesota since 1887, I’m confident these 14 people will continue our tradition of enforcing natural resources laws and understanding the importance of education and outreach as we serve the people of Minnesota,” said Rodmen Smith, DNR Enforcement Division director.
The officer candidates began training at Camp Ripley on May 20 and will continue there until August, learning about topics ranging from fish and wildlife laws to patrol procedures, and rules of evidence to fish and wildlife investigation.
They’ll also learn about the vital role conservation officers occupy in their communities and the part they play in developing the next generation of anglers, conservationists and hunters. Upon graduation, they’ll spend several months field training with experienced officers. The candidates will be assigned to their own stations in December.
“Conservation officers live in the areas they serve and, due to the nature of their work, become integral parts of their communities,” said Smith.
Attendees of this year’s Academy bring with them a wide variety of experiences. Some have a traditional law enforcement background while others took part in a program called CO PREP, which provides candidates before the Academy with law enforcement training such that they’re eligible for Peace Officer Standards and Training certification. Over the years, the CO PREP program has been highly successful in creating a conservation officer workforce that more closely reflects the state’s population.
There are 155 conservation officer field stations in Minnesota. Currently, 27 of them are vacant; this current class will reduce the vacancies by about half. Each station covers about 650 square miles.
Moldy birdseed and unclean bird feeders can make birds sick. Homeowners who enjoy feeding birds can takes steps now to help birds stay healthy, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
In spring and especially in warm, humid weather, it is common for mold to form on wet birdseed. The mold can cause an avian disease called aspergillosis, which affects the birds’ respiratory systems. Salmonella is another disease that affects birds and is associated with unclean feeders. Both diseases can be fatal to birds.
To clean a feeder, use a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water, and scrub the entire surface. Always allow the cleaned feeder to dry out in the sun, as the sunlight will help kill bacteria on the feeder. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned about every week to 10 days during the summer, to keep the sugar water from producing mold.
Staff from the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program urges bird enthusiasts to also rake or sweep up any fallen seeds and seed hulls under their feeder to prevent moldy conditions from occurring on the ground. Seeds left on the ground can also attract meadow voles, house mice, other rodents, raccoons, deer and even bears.
Keep the feed dry by using a hopper-type feeder or a fly-through feeder, and always scrape out old seed that accumulates in the corners. Tray feeders with a screen bottom will allow seeds to dry out from above and below after a rain shower, but thick layers of seed could still trap moisture, so consider more frequent fillings with less seed.
More information about bird feeding is available at mndnr.gov/birdfeeding. Books about attracting and feeding birds include, “Wild about Birds: The DNR Bird Feeding Guide” and “Landscaping for Wildlife.” These books were made possible by donations to the Nongame Wildlife Fund.
Docks and dock platforms provide access to Minnesota’s lakes and rivers, and are regulated to help protect public safety as well as aquatic habitat. As summer approaches, the Department of Natural Resources encourages property owners and lake service provider businesses to review the regulations, to ensure the equipment they own, sell or install is in compliance.
Extensive dock systems may shade out important aquatic plants and eliminate critical habitat where fish spawn, feed, grow and find shelter from predators. They can also obstruct navigation or even create a safety hazard if they are too large or improperly placed.
“The current regulations have been in existence for many years, but not everyone is familiar with them,” said Jack Gleason, DNR public waters hydrologist. “The DNR worked with property owners, public water users, and business and industry representatives to develop these regulations. They’re designed to balance the need for reasonable access to public waters with habitat protection and safety.”
To ensure this balance, a dock may not be more than 8 feet wide and may not be combined with other similar structures to create a wider dock.
A modest platform at the water end of a dock is allowed under certain conditions. A single, temporary platform up to 120 square feet measured separately from the access dock, or 170 square feet including the area of the adjacent access dock, is allowed if the following conditions exist:
- The access dock must be 5 feet wide or less, and
- The dock must be on a lake with a shoreland classification of General Development or Recreational Development.
Docks must not be a hazard to navigation, health or safety and must allow the free flow of water. A dock should not close off part of the lake or river to other users. Docks must also comply with any local ordinances.
A document about state dock requirements is available on the DNR website.
The DNR website also contains links to other helpful information for property owners about shoreline erosion control and restoration projects to help improve water quality and fish and wildlife habitat.