In communities all around Mille Lacs, with their woodlands, swamps and various other lakes and rivers, nature is a plentiful resource for all to enjoy. When it comes to managing and enforcing the laws regarding that resource, the task falls to the local conservation officers. And 2020 has seen a new hand joining the officers that serve Mille Lacs’ surrounding communities. As of Dec. 25, 2019, Mikeena Mattson is the conservation officer serving the Wealthwood area, located beside the north shore of Mille Lacs Lake.
Mattson originally hails from Cloquet, Minn. Having grown up in the northland, she came to the Mille Lacs area because it had similar resources to those where she grew up. Mattson noted that her desire to be a conservation officer went back several years, as she loves being outdoors, hunting and fishing. A bit of family history also informed Mattson’s choice of career. Her grandfather worked as a conservation officer for over 35 years. Mattson remembers him loving the work he did.
Mattson’s educational background includes a bachelor degree in biology, with a minor in environment and sustainability, from the University of Minnesota Duluth. “In determining the educational route I would take,” Mattson said, “I looked to the fact that I love being outdoors and enjoying all Minnesota has to offer.” This mindset informed her decision to seek work with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and protect the natural resources of the state. Mattson completed her law enforcement training in the Twin Cities, and her training to become a conservation officer (CO) included both a 16-week long academy and 16 weeks of field training.
Mattson views the work of herself and other conservation officers as vital in providing sustainable natural resources for both current and future generations. Through her work, she hopes Minnesota’s historically prominent natural resources can be maintained for the next generation, and love for the outdoors can be fostered in that generation.
Where challenges in her work are concerned, Mattson did not foresee any coming to the Wealthwood area. While every
station took some time to learn, she noted, she added that the Wealthwood station was located in a smaller land base. It was a goal of Mattson’s to be a resource for her community. Conservation officers live in the area they serve, she said, which aids in being knowledgeable about a region and its community. Mattson sees this knowledge as integral to making a positive impact on the education of and protection for natural resources.
Though Mattson has recently started her work as a conservation officer in the Wealthwood area, she brings a love for nature and an eye toward the future to her position. Mille Lacs has long been a natural gem in the heart of Minnesota, and through the work done to protect its resources by officers like Mattson, it can continue to be the font of natural opportunity for generations to come.