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Paynesville Press - July 14, 2004

New conservation officer begins in Paynesville area

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

dnr officerTodd VanderWeyst, the new DNR conservation officer for the Paynesville area, knew in the eighth grade that he wanted to be either a game warden or a professional carp fisherman. He figured he would not earn much as a carp fisherman, so game warden was the career he chose.

Todd VanderWeyst is the new DNR conservation officer for the Paynesville area.

Last month, VanderWeyst replaced Chuck Nelson, who served as the conservation officer for the Paynesville area for 20 years.

VanderWeyst will be responsible for natural resources law enforcement in an area that covers much of southwestern Stearns County, a 325-square-mile area that extends from Cold Spring to Brooten and includes Rice Lake, Lake Koronis, and most of the Horseshoe Chain of Lakes.

VanderWeyst's duties will vary according to the season. During the summer and winter, most of his time will be spent on the lakes, enforcing fishing regulations. In the fall, VanderWeyst's efforts will be concentrated on enforcing hunting regulations. Throughout the year, VanderWeyst will be responsible for enforcement of ATV regulations (including four-wheelers and snowmobiles), litter patrol, wetland protection, and protection of endangered waters. He will also teach gun safety and other DNR sponsored classes.

VanderWeyst, who is originally from St. Cloud, became a conservation officer in 2000 after graduating from St. Cloud State University with a degree in wildlife management and a minor in criminal justice. He spent almost three years working as a conservation officer for the DNR at its Mankato station.

"This is the best job in the world," said VanderWeyst. "Every day is different. Today I may check fishermen then look at a wetland. In the evening, I may teach firearm safety."

"Besides," he laughed, "unlike other law enforcement, 90 percent of the people I work around like me."

Conservation officers are required to live in the area they patrol. Right now, VanderWeyst is living with his brother in Cold Spring while he builds a new house in Paynesville.

VanderWeyst, who is single, claims to be married to his job. Even his hobbies mirror his work. He enjoys fishing and hunting. "I love what I do," he said. "My hobby is my job."

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