After several years of being vacant, the Park Rapids conservation officer post has been filled.

Originally from southeast of the Twin Cities, Nicholas Baum graduated from Minnesota State University Mankato with a bachelor’s degree in natural resources management.

“I knew I wanted to be a conservation officer when I was done with college,” Baum said.

Through a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) program, he became certified as a Minnesota Peace Officer.

The Park Rapids station was his first choice as an assignment, but his arrival was delayed.

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Baum is also an Army medic with the Minnesota National Guard in the aviation brigade. After he graduated from college in 2019, he was deployed for his second tour to Iraq. He served from Oct. 2019 to Oct. 2020.

“My job is to maintain the health of our soldiers, especially our aviators,” Baum explained. “I was also in charge of our medical supply overseas.”

His deployment was extended due to the pandemic outbreak. Typically a nine-month service overseas, Baum spent 10.5 months in Iraq and quarantined on his return.

“We did actually get snow once in the desert. It hadn’t snowed in 10 years, and the one time the Minnesota National Guard was there, it did,” he said.

When Baum returned to the states, he completed four months of conservation officer field training.

Impressed by the trails, lakes and “endless outdoor recreation that we have in the area,” Baum said he wanted to work in northern Minnesota.

He and his wife moved to Park Rapids in May 2021.

Naturally, he has a love of the outdoors. Duck hunting is a family tradition.

“One day, I can be on a four-wheeler and the next day on a boat,” he said of his new role. “It’s to have the changing seasons and the different activities that come with those seasons, so you don’t get bogged down on just one thing.”

Baum said he enjoys visiting with the public and answering any questions about DNR rules.

“Part of our job is to not only enforce game and fish laws, but also to educate the public on those laws and rule changes,” he said, adding he receives phone calls daily.