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February 27, 2020

12/28/2019 7:30:00 AM
Bartelt takes over as warden supervisor
Jacob Friede
Of The Lakeland Times

As of Sunday, Dec. 22, the Woodruff field warden team has a new leader. Chris Bartelt has been promoted to warden supervisor, taking over for longtime supervisor Dave Walz, who retired earlier this month.

Bartelt takes on the lead role after being a field warden, since 2017, out of the Lake Tomahawk warden station. Therefore he's already quite familiar with his team of five wardens and he couldn't be happier with the squad.

"We've got a really good team. There's a lot of experience on our team, and not just in traditional fish and game," Bartelt said. "We've got guys that are well- versed kind of in the whole gamut of DNR related things. I'm really fortunate to have this team because they do have so much experience."

Bartelt brings some experience of his own.

He grew up in Phillips, where he indulged fully in the outdoor lifestyle.

"Did all the things everybody up here does," Bartelt said. "Hunt, fish, ski, snowshoe, canoe. You know, all the stuff. Enjoying the resources up here."

After high school, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a couple years and studied dietetics and engineering. He then transferred to UW-Stevens Point, where he obtained a bachelor's degree in forestry.

While at Stevens Point, after befriending members of the student law enforcement association, Bartelt became intrigued with law enforcement.

"It's all the students that are going for law enforcement, whether its conservation law enforcement or traditional law enforcement. And it was a really good group of folks in that organization, so I started looking into law enforcement a little bit," Bartelt said.

He eventually attended the police academy at Midstate Technical College for his law enforcement certification.

"I've kind of been in love with the profession ever since," Bartelt said.

After he graduated from Stevens Point, Bartelt possessed both a bachelor's degree in forestry and a law enforcement certification. The perfect opportunity to combine his talents arose when he found out the Department of Natural Resources was hiring rangers for the Northern Highland-American Legion (NHAL) State Forest.

"Given my forestry degree and my ability to be a law enforcement officer, it was a perfect fit to come up here and be a forest ranger," Bartelt said.

He worked the NHAL as a ranger from 2013-2017, under deputy warden credentials, and then decided to become a conservation warden.

That entailed months of training at Ft. McCoy and other locations around the state, though he had already met some of the requirements.

"Given that I was already a department employee, I did kind of an abbreviated version of their training," Bartelt said. "Because I was already carrying a badge and a gun for the state."

In 2017, he was given his first warden assignment and it landed Bartelt in familiar territory.

"It worked out really well," he said. "I was a ranger on the Northern Highlands and then my first warden station was Lake Tomahawk. So I was covering a lot of the same ground I had covered as a ranger because there's a lot of state forest in that Lake Tomahawk area."

There's also a lot of outdoor activity there and that proved invaluable to Bartelt.

"Lake Tom was a great station in the fact that there was so much public land," he said. "There was always stuff going on. There was always people out hunting, fishing, ATVing, boating. Any day of the year I can find people to talk to in that Lake Tomahawk area. So that was great. And as a new warden, I guess, you're looking for experience so you need people to talk to. So it worked out really well."

Bartelt, whose team covers Oneida, Vilas, and parts of Iron County, thoroughly enjoys being a warden, largely due to the variety of jobs involved, whether that be patrolling the territory, making contacts, community outreach, or education.

"What we do changes not only day to day, but hour by hour," he said.

The changing seasons also keep the work fresh.

"As soon as something starts to wear on you a little bit, a new season starts and you got a whole new office space so to speak," Bartelt said.

New responsibilities

As a warden supervisor Bartelt will still have some of the duties of a field warden.

"Both are responsible for enforcing the different natural resource and environmental laws in Wisconsin. Both do a lot of community outreach and a lot of eduction," he said.

However, as a supervisor, he will concentrate on team management.

"As a warden supervisor I'm going to emphasize a little more on some of the overall program management, so making sure that the Woodruff team, as a whole, is making sure all of our customers' needs are being met," he said. "Making sure we're collaborating appropriately with other divisions and bureaus within the department as well as all the other external partners we've got up here in the Northwoods."

That said, in addition to his managerial duties, Bartelt will definitely still be in the field at times.

"I'll still be doing patrols. I'll still be responding to complaints," he said. "And then any time we've got a peak season, we always need more bodies in the field so, assuming I've got all my other duties taken care of, I'm going to be out there pounding the brush, pounding the water right alongside the field guys."

Public relations will also be part of Bartelt's responsibilities.

He is well aware that wardens are often the face of the department and he embraces the fact that they are often the public's first point of contact regarding inquiries of all sorts.

"We love that. We wouldn't have it any other way, because we do know a lot of stuff,' he said. "And one of the benefits of being in our position is we work with every single bureau and division within the department. Whether it's parks, wildlife, air, water. We work with them all, so even if we don't know the answer we know exactly the name of the person who does know the answer."

Off the clock, Bartelt is a family man. He's been married to wife Stephanie for six and a half years and they have two sons, Harrison and Henry.

He's also an outdoorsman. His favorite hunting is for deer and he loves to ice fish.

"Putting some tip-ups on the ice. Going on the shore, having a little campfire. That's kind of my ideal afternoon in the wintertime," Bartelt said.

A deep appreciation for natural resources is something that not only Bartelt himself possesses, it's something he sees in people all across the Northwoods, and because of that, he said, the public is, by and large, appreciative of the hard work of the Woodruff warden team.

As warden supervisor, Bartelt said he will strive to make sure that continues.

"They like seeing us out there," Bartelt said. "They like knowing that these resources that they love to enjoy have somebody watching over them, have somebody looking out for their best interest."

Jacob Friede may be reached at or

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