LITTLE FALLS, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has named Crookston Conservation Officer Tom Hutchins as the agency’s 2020 Conservation Officer of the Year.

Col. Rodmen Smith, DNR Enforcement Division director, presented Hutchins with the award during the division's recent annual awards ceremony and training conference at Camp Ripley near Little Falls.

The DNR presents the annual award to an officer for outstanding overall career performance. A DNR conservation officer since 2004, Hutchins has been stationed in Crookston since 2012.

The Crookston area includes a wide variety of landscapes, but the common thread that runs through all of Hutchins’ work is protection of the natural resources in his station and beyond, the DNR said in presenting the award.

“This award represents the highest achievement for natural resources law enforcement officers in Minnesota, and CO Hutchins couldn’t be any more deserving,” Smith said in a statement. “He takes great pride in his work, is invested in his community and cares strongly about our natural resources. Hutchins is a great example of the difference conservation officers make every day.”

Other DNR conservation officers to receive awards were:

  • Boat and Water Safety Achievement Award: Mitch Lawler, stationed in the Alexandria area. Lawler was recognized for his boat and water safety education and enforcement work since becoming a conservation officer in 2012.

  • Waterfowl Enforcement Achievement Award : Jim Guida, Brainerd, East station. “CO Guida takes an all-encompassing approach to waterfowl enforcement,” Smith said. “He makes sure hunters in the field are hunting ethically and lawfully, but he’s also devoted to protecting wetlands and the associated habitats that are crucial to the future of waterfowl.”

  • Willard Munger Wetlands Achievement Award: Angela Londgren, Cambridge. The award, which recognizes an officer who excels in the area of water resource protection, is named after the longtime state House of Representatives member who was focused on conservation and the environment.

  • Enforcement Education Achievement Award: Tricia Plautz, Henning, a veteran officer honored for her efforts in training new conservation officers before they go out on their own and in conducting safety training classes for youth and adults alike.

Additionally, Lt. Tyler Quandt and Conservation Officers Kipp Duncan, Brittany Hauser, Jeff Humphrey, Emily Leeb, Keith Olson, Plautz, Scott Staples and Hanna Wood received lifesaving awards. Conservation Officer Dustie Speldrich received a meritorious service award for her work with the Law Enforcement Memorial Association. During the conference, Dustin Miller was recognized as this year’s National Wild Turkey Federation Conservation Officer of the Year, and Londgren as the Turn in Poachers Conservation Officer of the Year, and Conservation Officer Kipp Duncan, who patrols the Duluth area, as the Minnesota Trappers Association Conservation Officer of the Year.