Photo by Rhonda Silence, Cook County Star
Minnesota Conservation Officer Kathleen Larson was recently assigned to Cook County.

Cook County's Thin Green Line

By Rhonda Silence, Cook County Star
The men and women of the Minnesota Department of Resources Enforcement branch - Conservation Officers - have been dubbed the "Thin Green Line." They are few and far between in the forests and fields of Minnesota. In September, a new officer, Kathleen Larson, joined counterparts Conrad Tikkala and Bob Kangas on patrol in Cook County. Larson is happy to be on the North Shore and looks forward to answering important questions, such as where are the good fishing spots and where are the grouse?
At least Larson hopes that will be how most of her encounters with hunters and fishermen go. In her 11 years with DNR Enforcement, she has had very few unpleasant experiences. She began her Enforcement career in Warren, Minnesota. She became familiar with this area when she worked at the Lake Superior Marine Unit in Duluth. "When the weather got cold, we worked the whole shore. This has always been one of my favorite areas," said Larson.
But Larson, and all Conservation Officers, know that they must be prepared for anything. "We work alone 99% of the time," she explained. "And most of the people we see have some type of weapon. You have to have the confidence to handle that."
Larson said her confidence was boosted by time spent at the DNR Enforcement Training Center at Camp Ripley, Minnesota, shortly before her transfer north. Conservation Officer Jayson Hansen, a defensive tactics instructor at the Training Center reinforced her concern. "Many conservation officers work in remote areas where law enforcement backup is rare," said Hansen. "Statistics show that work as a conservation officer is extremely hazardous. In fact, conservation officers suffer nine times more assaults than other law enforcement officers. Realistic training in defensive tactics may be a major deterrent to physical assault."
At the Training Center, DNR Officers work in pairs - one acting as aggressor and the other defending him or herself. Larson said, "We had to face 'Red Man' - someone in a protective suit. It was good training and gets you thinking, 'How will I get out of this situation?'"
Larson hopes she won't need to use what she's learned. She'd rather get to know the people hunting and fishing in Cook County. "When you see me, don't automatically think you're doing something wrong. I just want to check your license and make sure you're okay," she said. We're out there for protection."
Larson smiled and added, "We want people out there seeing deer and grouse - and having a good time."

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