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What Does a Conservation (DNR) Officer Do?

A nature conservation officer may work for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and other organizations to help preserve natural resources and ensure public safety. Explore a DNR job description, including duties, salary, and education.

What is a DNR Officer?

Students wondering 'what is a conservation officer?' should know that these professionals go by many different titles. Specifically, a DNR officer is a conservation officer who works for the Department of Natural Resources, but other names include fish and game warden, wildlife conservation officer, district wildlife manager, and fisheries enforcement officer. Although job duties may vary slightly between these different job titles, in general, a conservation officer helps manage and protect natural resources, wildlife, and ecosystems as a whole.

DNR Job Description

DNR conservation officers are primarily responsible for enforcing the environmental and conservation laws and policies that are specific to their state. Not only do these laws work to help protect wildlife, fish, waters, forests, wetlands, state parks, and other natural areas, but they also help keep the public safe. Other specific job duties for these officers may include:

  • Patrolling areas to enforce laws via foot, boat, car, etc.
  • Investigating violations and collecting evidence for court
  • Filing reports and citations as necessary
  • Providing safety and training courses to the public
  • Assisting injured animals
  • Helping preserve plants, animals, and ecosystems
  • Testifying in court as necessary
  • Maintaining records concerning environmental conditions

Nature Conservation Officer Salary

The website PayScale.com reported that the median annual salary for a conservation officer in November 2019 was $41,547. This salary was expected to increase with years of work experience, as those with 20 years or more of work experience reported a median salary of $78,500. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also reported that fish and game wardens made a median salary of $57,710 in 2018.

Nature Conservation Officer Outlook

According to the BLS, fish and game wardens had a job outlook of 2% from 2018 to 2028. This job outlook is slower than average. The BLS also reported that conservation scientists and foresters, which include conservation land managers, soil and water conservationists, and conservation education foresters, had a job outlook of 3% in the same time period.

Growth for these professions may be highest in areas out West as they deal with wildfires more regularly. State and local governments that own land in these areas may need additional help preventing and managing fires on these lands.

Nature Conservation Officer Education

While there are many different types of degree programs available in the field of conservation, including undergraduate and graduate-level wildlife and forestry conservation degree programs, most nature conservation officers need at least a bachelor's degree. Some conservation officers may be able to secure a job with only a high school diploma, but a bachelor's degree in areas like conservation law enforcement, wildlife conservation, biology, or criminal justice will help make students more competitive.

Although not as common, there are some Bachelor of Science (BS) in Conservation Law Enforcement programs available for aspiring conservation officers. These degree programs provide hands-on training in surveillance, interviews, evidence collection, and more. Students also study topics in criminal justice and can pursue internship opportunities.

Most conservation officers will also need to undergo on-the-job training. This may include training in environmental management topics specific to their region, firearms safety, and more.