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Conservation Officer Steinbach on duty 

December 18, 2010

Take one young southern Iowa farm kid who loved to explore outside, chase rabbits, go fishing and enjoy nature in all its aspects, add time and encouragement, stir in a healthy dose of post high school education at colleges to earn a biology degree and you have part of the major ingredients for a professional game warden.

Iowa natural resources experienced a huge turn-over of game wardens last year with the retirement of many fine folks who had put in many decades as fish & game law enforcement officers. Those retirements cut a big hole and left many vacancies scattered everywhere across the Hawkeye State. In fact some territory vacancies had gone several years without an assigned officer. Existing officers had to try to fill the gap as best they could. Already spread thin, they were spread thinner.

Earlier in 2010, at least a partial gap filling action was taken by the DNR. Fourteen candidates that had passed all the required pre-employment guidelines were hired. John Steinbach was one of the fourteen.

Article Photos

T-R PHOTO By Garry Brandenburg
John Steinbach, 26, is one of several newly hired Iowa DNR Conservation Officers. Steinbach began his duties in Grundy and Marshall County in mid-November after spending most of 2010 in training with other COs across the state. Steinbach graduated from Albia High School (Monroe County) in 2003 and then attended Indian Hills Community College from 2003 - 05. The next two years were spent studying biology at William Penn where he graduated in 2007. In December of 2008 he graduated from the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy at Camp Dodge. He was inspired at a young age to seek out the game warden profession after listening to another game warden give a presentation at a hunter safety class. Welcome John to central Iowa.      

Steinbach's assigned territory is Marshall and Grundy County, although as a state conservation officer, county boundaries mean nothing. He can go anywhere his duties may require. Iowa game wardens are also deputy U.S. Fish & Wildlife officers.

I've already noted how thin conservation officers are spread out across Iowa, or the nation for that matter. In the USA, there are about 7,000 Conservation Officers compared to 500,000 officers in cities and as state troopers. Just in New York City, 7,000 policemen and women will be assigned duty just to cover the New Year's Eve celebration. Another example involves California where in 1950 there was one game warden for every 54,845 people. In 2006, the California ratio had changed to one for every 180,288 people on a territory of 159,000 square miles, a total of 36 million folks, 1,100 miles of ocean coastline, 222,000 square miles of ocean waters, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, 4,800 lakes in addition to deserts, mountains and urban areas.

Iowa game wardens have a much smaller state compared to California, however, huge territories and decades of experience have shown how important it is to have adequate coverage by law enforcement specializing in natural resource protection via the fish & game laws and regulations. Iowa has 19,000 miles of interior streams and 582 miles of border rivers, the Mississippi and the Missouri. The Mississippi has 190,000 surface acres while the Missouri has 13,500 acres.

There are 35 natural glacially produced lakes with over 45,000 surface acres. In addition, there are about 200 man-made lakes where recreation takes place on 24,000 acres. Iowa also has about 2,000 acres of oxbow lakes, those old cutoff channels primarily on the border rivers. Federal reservoirs for flood control provide fishing and hunting opportunities also with 46,900 surface acres.

Most of Iowa's lands are privately owned. Only about 2 percent is public, a combination of DNR wildlife management lands and county conservation parcels. On all of the above lands and waters, people like to get outdoors to camp, hike, fish, boat, hunt, or trap as part of a vast array of outdoor recreation pursuits. Add to this mix the very human tendencies for mischief by some folks, and one can quickly see that law enforcement plays a vital role to guide human conduct in the outdoors.

For all the sportsmen and women that read the rules, know the rules and play by the rules, this scribe's 'tip-of-the-hat' to you and a big thank you. Conservation Officers depend on law abiding sportsmen to call them when illegal or questionable conduct is taking place. The details of place, time and many other tidbits of information help make cases for the game warden. For those folks that bend the rules or go about illegal activities regarding fish and wildlife laws, game wardens will be watching. You just never know when or where. The surest way to not have to be worried about what you are doing is to know the law and conduct ones actions in compliance with the statutes. Just do it right the first time and there is no need to worry. It really is that easy.

Stienbach's early experiences on the farm have paid off. From his slingshot for rabbit days, fishing in local ponds or rivers, running trap lines, experiencing all night runs with coon dogs, he has tried it all. He likes to hunt upland birds, waterfowl and deer or turkey with a bow. Prior work stints have involved summer jobs at Honey Creek State Park, reserve deputy duties for the Appanoose County Sheriff, and a slot on the South Central Iowa Drug Task Force Special Operations Group (SWAT team).

John Steinbach can be contacted on his state phone at 641-751-5246. If you have a question, the easiest way to sort out the details is to ask first. Get the facts. Abide by the rules. Play fair. Hunt smart and safe. It is the right thing to do. We welcome John Steinbach and look forward to a great association and cooperation as he works his job as an Iowa Conservation Officer.


Winter cold weather has made the ice on area ponds thick enough for ice fishing activities. Still, never trust the ice until you have checked it. At least 4 inches of new ice is strong enough to support people. Six or eight inches will support additional equipment such as Ice fishing houses. For those folks brave enough to drive a truck onto the ice (where legal to do so), make sure that there are no thin spots. Retrieving a vehicle from the bottom of a lake is a very expensive undertaking. Yet it happens every year someplace. Ouch!


Today and tomorrow round out the last two days of Iowa's second shotgun deer season. Projections indicate at this point, from all deer seasons since mid-September's start for urban hunts, youth season, regular bow season, early muzzleloader and first shotgun season, approximately 95,000 deer have been killed in Iowa. The late muzzleloader and special southern Iowa rifle seasons will add to this number. Hunters are reminded of the requirement to tag a deer within 15 minutes of its taking or before it is moved, whichever happens first, and then to place the call of computer registration to get the confirmation number. The license tag attached to a deer has two parts, and when all the registration is done, there should be two tags on each deer. The biological data of deer harvests is critical toward the management of the overall deer herd. Thanks for helping.


In case you haven't noticed, sunset times have bottomed out between Dec. 4 and 14 at 4:38 p.m. Today's sunset will be at 4:39, a gain of one whole minute. Sunrises reach their latest time of 7:38 a.m. between Dec. 30 and Jan. 9. Jan. 10 has a sunrise of 7:37. Later in January, sunrise times will gain a minute or so about every other day. Winter officially starts Dec. 21.


The GrimesFarm & Conservation Center will be closed Dec. 24 for the Christmas holiday. During December, January, and February the Center is not open on Saturday mornings except for Jan. 8 and Feb. 12 and 19 from 9 a.m. to noon.


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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