Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Kipp Duncan has been named the 2021 DNR Conservation Officer of the Year, which is an annual award presented to an officer for outstanding overall career performance.
Duncan works the Duluth East station, where he’s been since 2007. He was stationed in Two Harbors from the beginning of his DNR career in 2001 until transferring to Duluth. In his more than 20 years with the DNR, Duncan has become a familiar face to anglers, hunters and others in the area. He frequently speaks at community events and safety education classes, and maintains high visibility as he works to protect the North Shore’s natural resources and the people who use them.
In addition to his regular duties, Duncan also works with new conservation officers in his role as a field training officer.
“The people of Minnesota are lucky to have a conservation officer like Kipp working for them, and I can’t think of a better example for our newest officers,” said Col. Rodmen Smith, director of the DNR Enforcement Division. “Kipp reflects the values and mission of the Enforcement Division and sets the bar for the high expectations we have of our conservation officers.”
In addition, Duncan also received The Minnesota Chapter of the Wildlife Society’s Law Enforcement Award and was named 2021 Minnesota Wildlife Officer of the Year by the Shikar Safari Club International.
Other Enforcement Division honorees include:
Boat and Water Safety Achievement Award – CO Mike Krauel
CO Mike Krauel, who is stationed in Mora, is especially active on the water as he works to ensure all boaters are being safe. A conservation officer since 2015, Krauel is a consistent presence on lakes and rivers in his station – as well as on some of the state’ busiest waterways, including Lake of the Woods, Lake Minnetonka, Upper Red Lake and the Mississippi River.
“Mike works hard to keep boaters safe, and to teach them how to keep themselves safe,” Smith said. “In addition, he’s a leader among conservation officers in keeping impaired boaters – who risk not only their own lives, but also the lives of others – off our lakes and rivers.”
Krauel was also named the Turn in Poachers Officer of the Year for 2021.
Waterfowl Enforcement Achievement Award – CO Tony Salzer
CO Tony Salzer, who is stationed in Ham Lake, has been a conservation officer since 2007. Throughout his career, he’s prioritized waterfowl-related enforcement and recruiting new waterfowl hunters. Salzer is an avid waterfowl hunter himself, and understands the vital role habitat plays.
“Protecting waterfowl and their habitat is a tough job that requires a high amount of dedication,” Smith said. “It takes a blend of enforcement and education and the ability to help hunters understand the role they play in waterfowl conservation. Tony does it well, and our resources are better for his efforts.”
Willard Munger Wetlands Achievement Award – CO Nick Klehr
CO Nick Klehr, who is stationed in Litchfield and has been a conservation officer since 2014, works hard to protect Minnesota’s most valuable resource: water. His station is busy with recreational boaters, but also includes a large amount of agriculture and increasing shoreline development. This award is named for a longtime member of the Minnesota House of Representatives who was a leader when it came to conservation and the environment.
Klehr previously has received the Boat and Water Safety Achievement Award.
“Nick continues to be a leader in all things related to water – from slowing the spread of aquatic invasive species, to keeping boaters safe, to stopping damage to the environment,” Smith said. “He does a great job at preserving and protecting our water resources.”
Enforcement Education Achievement Award – CO Todd VanderWeyst
CO Todd VanderWeyst, who is stationed in Paynesville, has prioritized safety education since he became a conservation officer in 2000. During his career, he’s worked in communities throughout his station to ensure everyone who needs safety education has access to it. In addition, VanderWeyst regularly speaks with community and other groups about topics related to the outdoors and conservation.
“Our safety training programs are second to none, but programs don’t teach people or keep them safe – people do,” Smith said. “Todd understands that and works tirelessly to ensure he and our volunteer instructors provide people the foundation they need for a lifetime of safely enjoying the outdoors.”
In addition to the awards above, DNR Conservation Officer Lt. Phil Mohs was named the Minnesota State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation’s officer of the year.