The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association has named Conservation Officer Doug Sandstrom, Longville, an Honorable Mention 2002 Police Officer of the Year.
A 25-year DNR conservation officer, Sandstrom places emphasis on community work by leading and conducting firearms safety courses, snowmobile safety courses and advanced community education courses.
"As a conservation officer he understands the importance of teaching youth not only about hunting and firearm safety, but also about the importance of preserving and enhancing our natural resources," DNR Enforcement Chief Bill Bernhjelm said. "His annual programs on conservation law enforcement have served to enhance the image of the DNR and clear up many misconceptions about what our work is all about."
Sandstrom's efforts go beyond traditional conservation officer duties. Working with Longville school officials and volunteer and civic groups, Sandstrom led the effort to create an outdoor environmental education center. The 80-acre area was acquired and transferred to the school district.
Today this area includes a wildflower garden, wood duck houses, a beaver lodge, bird feeders and an 800-foot dock that connects peninsulas and an island, allowing learning access to a bog. It serves as a hands-on teaching tool for children, a tool that helps them appreciate the environment and, in the long term, will help them become better stewards of the environment.
Last year the project was named the "School Forest of the Millennium" by the DNR. It is the first school forest in the state to be given that recognition.
Sandstrom works closely with the hunting and fishing communities, not only to ensure that they follow the law, but also to protect them when they become lost or confronted with a dangerous situation. One of those situations occurred last year.
On a cold October night, Sandstrom received a call at 2 a.m. that an elderly man had become lost on a lake in northern Minnesota. The 83-year-old man was disoriented and had called his family members on a cell phone to tell them of his predicament. Sandstrom, joined by another officer, coordinated a search, made difficult by strong winds and heavy rain mixed with snow.
Unwilling to give up, Sandstrom and his partner finally spotted the lost man, who was incoherent by this time. However, they were unable to maneuver their boat to the man's location. Sandstrom then jumped into freezing water and carried the victim back to the boat. The rescue was made at 5 a.m., three hours after Sandstrom had received the call. Without his actions it is believed the man would have died.
Sandstrom's actions led to a DNR-issued medal for heroism.
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