In college, Trevor Johnson wanted to combine his desire to help people with an interest in law enforcement.
His friends took him fishing and hunting, something the Egan native didn’t do as a kid. That led to a wildlife and fisheries science major at South Dakota State University, earning a degree that has brought him back to Moody County as its new Conservation Officer with the Game, Fish, and Parks.
“I thought the degree sounded interesting to me. I decided to give it a shot. I was hooked,” he said. Johnson, 28, started in Moody County in late December, in a position previously held by Chad Williams, who left at the end of September.
Johnson worked summers with the SD GF&P as an intern or seasonal worker, mostly in habitat management and one summer as a wildlife damage management intern. For two years after college, he was a correctional officer at the Minnehaha County Jail in Sioux Falls before becoming a Conservation Officer in Beadle County in November 2017.
His job includes both conservation work and law enforcement. He completed training with the state police academy and through the GF&P department. Johnson serves Moody County but also is part of a district that includes Minnehaha, Lake, Brookings and Kingsbury counties.
So far, he has been refamiliarizing himself with the county and introducing himself to sportsmen he sees. “Most contacts come from compliance checks. I enjoy taking those opportunities to know the different individuals I come across,” he said.
He likes the variety of the work and doesn’t work set hours, spending time on the job during the day, at night and on weekends.
“I have always felt local conservation officers also have more opportunities than most other officers to get involved with their communities through landowner contacts, instructing HuntSafe classes, meeting with various organizations and many other programs offered by the GF&P,” he said.
Although Johnson doesn’t enjoy issuing tickets, it is part of the job, he said. “I would like people to see their local conservation officers as more of a friend, rather than somebody who is just out there looking to give somebody a ticket. If I do feel a ticket is warranted, it’s not something I enjoy doing, but I hope the person issued the ticket learns from the experience and becomes a more responsible and educated sportsman.”
Johnson is temporarily living in Dell Rapids, where he graduated from high school, with his silver lab, Luna. He enjoys outdoors sports, especially bird and deer hunting. He took the job, in part, to be closer to home.
“I’m looking forward to being back in my old stomping grounds and working with people I’m already familiar with and meeting new people that are from the same area I grew up,” he said.
He plans to stay around, but his long-range goals are to be a trainer for other conservation officers.
“As my experience continues, hopefully I can take that and help other officers,” he said.