After the area had been without one for a time, a new Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officer has finished training and been stationed in the greater Morrison County area.
Tou Vang completed his academy training in August, and field training in December before taking a post in Pierz, Dec. 9, 2020.
“It was during the Academy that the stations got put out, and everybody bid on what station they would like,” Vang said. “I got awarded the Pierz station before I even got done.”
Vang was a refugee child from Thailand, and came to the St. Paul as a young child in 1988, before moving to Columbia Heights in 1995, where he grew up.
Vang said he was an avid outdoorsman growing up, which is part of the reason why he decided to leave a career as a medic and become a CO.
“That certainly was a driving factor, to be more in the outdoors, and have not so much a 9-to-5 office job, but to be more engaged in the outdoors,” Vang said. “I was a former medic, and after you put in your 80 hours, family time, it left very little time for outdoors.”
Vang is married with three children ages 9, 6 and 4. He moved to the Hillman area, and his children are attending Pioneer Elementary in Pierz.
“I like it,” Vang said. “I come from a pretty extensive outdoors background. A lot of camping and hiking, hunting and fishing, so I’ve been wanting to get away from the cities a little bit.”
“This really fits my niche, and the community has been great, friendly,” Vang said. “I like being out in the countryside.”
He said that he looks forward to helping the community, especially young people.
“I would certainly like to get to know the community a little more, get involved with the youth, because that is our future,” Vang said. “I want to get involved with firearm safety, snowmobiling, ATV.”
That said, Vang believes there will still be challenges, especially the variety of issues that COs must handle.
“You’d think that generally the rules and regulations cover a lot of what we do, but that is just scratching the surface,” Vang said. “When I went through the training, I came to grips with what a CO actually does, and it is not just hunting, not just fishing, but boating, recreation, air pollution, water pollution, water districts, and there is a lot of that which I’ve had to digest.”
“Things in the academy move really fast, and you don’t really have a lot of time to sit down and understand a lot before they throw you out into the public and enforce all these,” Vang said. “That is the most challenging, the stuff that is on the outer edge of what we do, and that we don’t typically run into day-to-day.”
A map of the area that Vang covers can be found at www.dnr.state.mn.us/officerpatrolareas/index.html.