June 18, 2007

A day in the life of Minnesota's Conservation Officer of the Year

Conservation Officer Brian Mies enforces laws for those without a voice

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

“Out here, the fish, animals, and environment don’t have a voice. My job is to protect those without a voice and to make sure it’s a fair chase for everyone,” said Brian Mies of Annandale who was recently named Minnesota Conservation Officer of the Year.

Although he is assigned to the Annandale station, Howard Lake is part of Mies’ territory, which encompasses portions of western Wright County and a portion of Stearns County.

Mies’ day may start in any direction from following up on a tip call by jumping in his truck, on an ATV, in a boat, or on a snowmobile in the winter, to patrolling wetlands, lakes, and wooded areas to observe hunters and fisherman.

Observation is key to Mies’ daily activities. As he patrols recreation areas, he is forever on the lookout for activity.

Mies will often pull his truck over on the side of the road, get out his binoculars, which are kept right on his dashboard, and observe hunting or fishing practices.

If the binoculars aren’t strong enough to pick up the type of information he needs, Mies will switch to his high powered spotting scope, which he quickly mounts to the window ledge of his truck.

Boat registration numbers can be seen from quite a distance with his spotting scope. Mies will often call in a boat or vehicle license number to State Patrol dispatch and receive information such as names and possible warrants.

If Mies needs backup, he calls the sheriff’s office or the State Patrol.

“I enjoy seeing people catch fish and get a nice deer, but I just want to make sure it’s fair,” Mies said.

“With more than 60 lakes in my station, I really rely on the public to help do my job. They let us (conservation officers) know what’s going on, and we really need their help,” Mies said.

“Getting to know people is a big part of my job. About one-half of my big cases are tip calls. Once people get to know you, they feel comfortable calling you,” to report activity, he explained.

Two tip calls were made to Mies within the three hours that the Herald Journal followed his duties.

“I see all degrees, from good people who make mistakes to those intentionally violating. Catching the intentional violators is rewarding,” Mies said.

“Most of the stuff is ticketable offenses that can be paid through the mail. About 95 percent of people are easy to deal with in this area, but you always have those few who aren’t,” he explained.

Mies is in constant contact with people who are in possession of potential weapons, like fillet knifes and firearms.

“You have to be on your toes and realize the threat is there if something went sour,” Mies said.

In addition to enforcing game and fishing laws, Mies gives “law talks” at schools, and oversees firearm safety classes and ATV classes by making sure the classes are offered, volunteer instructors are lined up, and will give a lecture at one class session.

Mies enjoys how the job changes with the seasons. Fall is the busiest season because hunting, trapping, and fishing are in full force.

“As the seasons change, my job does too,” Mies said.

A negative side to the job is the long weekend hours when fish are really biting or when hunting is good.

Indeed, Mies’ presence in his territory is well known as evidence by sportsmen who engage in conversation with their local conservation officer.

At a fishing pier on Pleasant Lake, fisherman Dennis Midas said to Mies, “You’re more active than most. That was quite an article regarding you being the Minnesota Conservation Officer of the Year (as seen in another newspaper). You checked me last winter on Sugar Lake.”

“By the bullrushes there,” Mies said.

“You remember,” Midas said in amazement.

That’s just the kind of reaction Mies works hard at attaining.

“That five minutes of being nice and personal with people makes a world of difference. They’ll remember you and help you out,” Mies said.

It’s a sentiment that would benefit all of us, both professionally and personally.

Honored with a big award

When asked about his new title of Minnesota Conservation Officer of the Year, Mies modestly said, “I did get lucky.”

There are 150 conservation officers in the state. Each year, each district nominates an officer for the award, and an elimination process takes place until a recipient is determined, according to Mies.

“It’s kind of an accumulation of all your years of work. If you do a good job and get lucky – you get it,” Mies said.

Doing a good job entails training new officers, catching offenders, getting to know the community and having good personal relations, as well as knowing when and where activity is happening.

Mies has been a conservation officer, a position formally known as a game warden, since 1991.

“The first game warden was hired more than 120 years ago to enforce trapping laws,” Mies said.

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