ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — It’s one of the most desired jobs in law enforcement: being a state conservation officer.

Major Roger Tietz has worn the DNR uniform for more than 31 years. After working years in the field, he is now the operations support manager.

His duties include overseeing the DNR’s training academy for new officer candidates at Camp Ripley.

He says the department’s enforcement division is preparing for a large number of retirements and is currently looking to hire up to 18 conservation officer candidates. And this is just a hint of what’s to come.

“To give you an idea, by 2017 we’re going to lose 40 more people, so we need to start kind of building our ranks now so we don’t fall way behind,” he said.

The division currently has a job posting advertising the qualifications and expectations of the enforcement officer positions. But what began mainly as a job enforcing the state’s game and fish laws has changed dramatically over the years.

Today’s conservation officers have responsibility for a wide range of resource protection and recreational safety issues. They also enforce laws on habitat protection and the spread of invasive species.

Conservation officers are assigned duty areas all around the state and work out of their homes, in trucks supplied by the DNR.

Requirements include possession of or soon-to-be-licensed as a Minnesota peace officer. In addition, successful candidates must have knowledge of fish and wildlife identification, habitat and other environmental sciences.

They should also be comfortable with a variety of outdoor recreation activities, including boating, snowmobiling and all-terrain vehicles.

Finally, the job can be solitary and require working long hours during nighttime operations. Weekends, holidays and season openers are a given, being that’s when the public tends to be enjoying outdoor recreational activities.

Additionally, one should expect to work in the most extreme of weather conditions.

Still, Tietz says the job is much more than a profession – he calls it a passion.

“What we’re looking for is somebody that has an active interest — let’s call it passion — for Minnesota’s outdoors,” he said.

Eighteen applicants will be selected for a 12-week training academy that is expected to begin in April 2014. Graduates of the academy would be placed into the field to begin filling officer vacancies about a year from now.

Conservation officer salaries range between $47,000 and $62,000 per year.

If you are qualified and interested, here is the link to the application.

Bill Hudson