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Volunteers play an important role in DNR success

More than 34,000 volunteers donated their time and talents in 2007 to assist Minnesota Department of Natural Resources staff with a variety of projects and programs.

"We're fortunate to have so many dedicated Minnesotans who are willing to donate their time and talents for conservation projects," said Renee Vail, the DNR's volunteer programs administrator. "We're extremely grateful for their efforts."

In 2007, 34,773 volunteers donated 472,517 hours of work. Those efforts represent the equivalent of an extra 227 full-time people helping the DNR expand and improve services. The value of volunteer services is estimated at $8.8 million.

"The volunteers provide work that supplements but does not supplant DNR personnel," Vail said. "Their efforts add significant value to the DNR, which relies on the community for assistance. Many of our projects would not be possible without the help of volunteers."

DNR managers, professionals and technicians work with the volunteers to help manage the state's diverse natural resources. Volunteer positions range from jobs requiring no previous experience to specialist positions requiring extensive skill and experience.

Interested in a possible career in fisheries, Kara Torell of St. Cloud asked to shadow a worker from the DNR fisheries in Montrose last spring. Torell helped DNR staff lift large trap nets for muskellunge on Sugar Lake in Wright County in April 2007 as part of a lake survey.

The fish were measured for length and weight and then released. This data helps the DNR make management decisions regarding stocking and regulations and provides a picture of how the fishery is doing, especially when compared to past surveys. Results are posted on the DNR Web site for anglers and others to use.

"Muskellunge and other fish move into shallow water shortly after ice-out," said Mark Pelham, DNR fisheries specialist. "It's a good time to catch a lot of large fish and release them safely. We do this to supplement our summer lake survey. It was cold, wet, hard work and Kara was a trooper helping that day."

For more information about DNR volunteering opportunities, click here or contact the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157.or toll free at 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).