More DNR conservation officers appear to be bending fishing rules

Here’s another example of mixed signals being sent by the state Department of Natural Resources on the status of fishing license laws during the state government shutdown: Voyageurs National Park officials apparently had an arrangement with their local DNR conservation officers to allow fishing to continue in the park for people who didn’t have a license.

Voyageurs National Park Superintendent Mike Ward told The Journal newspaper of International Falls that a lot of people visiting the park were concerned about how to get a license during their visit. License sales have been halted since the state government shutdown began July 1.

Ward told the paper he was informed by local DNR officers that they would allow people fishing without a license to get one later, without penalty.

“We queried the DNR, and we assume these people would be following the rules if the state was open,” Ward told the paper. “So they’re gathering the information so when the state reopens, they will have a time period when they can get a license, and won’t be fined or cited.”

Crow Wing County leaders last week talked publicly about similar messages coming from their local conservation officers. That prompted DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr to issue a statement saying there would be no free pass for unlicensed anglers during the shutdown.

It appears local DNR officers are trying to be sensitive to resorts and other tourism related businesses worried the unavailability of fishing licenses will chase away out-of-state visitors. It’s likely those conservation officers are as anxious as anyone for the shutdown to come to an end.

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