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Thread: Put wardens back into ADFG?

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    Moderator David Johnson's Avatar
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    Arrow Put wardens back into ADFG?

    About three decades ago the state of Alaska moved the Division of Fish & Wildlife Protection (the "Game Wardens") from the Department of Fish and Game to the Department of Public Safety. That worked out well in some respects; less well in others. Fish & Wildlife troopers got better training -- but substantially less contact with biologists and resource managers.

    Just a few years ago, early in the Murkowski administration, the Commissioner of Public Safety downgraded the Division of Fish & Wildlife Protection to a bureau within the Division of State Troopers.

    This has not worked well at all. Concern is increasingly being raised in the wildlife conservation community. In November 2005, the Alaska Board of Fisheries and the Board of Game asked Public Safety Commissioner Tandeske for a report on the effectiveness of this move.

    In a recent article published by the Alaska Outdoor Council, long time ADFG biologist Patrick Valkenberg writes that "It's Time to Bring Back the Division of Fish & Wildlife Protection." Here is a quote from Valkenberg's article:

    After the reorganization and creation of the Alaska Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement (ABWE) there has been a 24% decrease in annual fish and wildlife patrol and investigation time by fish and wildlife troopers and a 20% decrease in fish and wildlife contacts. However, there has been an accompanying 50% increase in non-fish and wildlife citations and a 75% increase in non-fish and wildlife warnings by ABWE troopers. Also, money that comes into the Fish and Game Fund from fines is down significantly. In other words, fish and wildlife enforcement officers are spending much less of their time on wildlife enforcement and much more of their time assisting the state troopers with regular law enforcement duties.
    You can read the whole article on the Alaska Outdoor Council website.

    What do you think?

    David
    David M Johnson
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  2. #2

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    I think this bio has been studying sand fleas too long, because he obviously had his head in the sand a long, long time, obviously oblivious to what the more serious ill's of our society are. I agree with the Governor on this one, law enforcement capability is limited, I would much rather see one rapist, murder, robber, assaulter, etc taken off the streets, than all the salmon snaggers in the whole state. Priorities must be set, with the resources you have, not the resources you wish you had.

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    While I agree with AKres in the rapist, murders etc are more important than a salmon snagger, there are other things to consider. The first being that fish and game violations are considerabley worse then just salmon snaggers. The governor and the legislature have to get off their collective butt and fully fund law enforcement in this state instead of lining their own pockets or that of their friends with pet projects. Are you listening Ben? I think it would probably be an excellent idea to put the "Game Wardens" back into Fish and Game. At least least they need to reestablish the Division of Wildlife Protection and put more emphasis on game violations. The troopers need to be fully funded and expanded to insure they have the resources to do the job they are to do instead of having to make do with half measures.

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    Default Plenty of Funding out there for Additional Troopers...

    Oil is at an all time high & the Multibillion dollar budget deficit that was there when Murkowski came into office & restructured the whole financing of the State of Alaska, upto & Including taking FWP Officers off the trail, & putting them behind desks to do a Troopers job, isn't there. Now that the state coffers will have all time highs of money dripping in from oil sales, I see no reason why the State can't restructure the Wildlife Enforcement back to doing there job while funding more troopers to do what Murkowski asked the WE to do.

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    Member BRWNBR's Avatar
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    while i can't say where the money stands on this issue from the budget i can say this: i want to see fish and game show up and check my license and my clients, i want to see them checking sheep camps and moose camps and brown bear kills and counting brow tines on moose at carcasses. I'd much rather see them taking an interest in what happens in the field, than in what meat shows up in the pick up trucks off the road. I want to know that my following the rules is actually helping in some way. I guy fishing legal don't do squat when the rest of the river is snaggin'.
    Above all that...i'd like to see land owners out checking guides to see if they have permits to be there....oh man that'd slow down the guide business in a hurry!

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    Member martentrapper's Avatar
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    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm...........isn't Pat Valkenburg one of those bio's that supports predator control? And the outdoor council........can anything good come from them?

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    Moderator David Johnson's Avatar
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    Default Law enforcement priority

    Quote Originally Posted by Akres
    I think this bio has been studying sand fleas too long, because he obviously had his head in the sand a long, long time, obviously oblivious to what the more serious ill's of our society are. I agree with the Governor on this one, law enforcement capability is limited, I would much rather see one rapist, murder, robber, assaulter, etc taken off the streets, than all the salmon snaggers in the whole state. Priorities must be set, with the resources you have, not the resources you wish you had.
    Could you explain why you thought it necessary to insult someone you obviously do not know in the stating of your case?

    By extension of the logic here, we should have no fish and wildlife law enforcement so as to use every available dime to protect people. I certainly don't disagree with the priority of protecting people, but is it not necessary to protect fish and wildife resources for the benefit of people, if for no other reason?

    Fish & wildlife law enforcement is paid partially from the state's Fish & Game fund. By law, this fund may only be used for fish & wildlife conservation, including enforcement. Alaska fish & wildlife law enforcement has also been partially funded by the state's General Fund as well, of course.

    My thread title was about moving F&WP back into ADF&G. I'd be interested to hear thoughts on this concept.

    David
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    Member martentrapper's Avatar
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    Default Funding

    Quote Originally Posted by David Johnson

    Fish & wildlife law enforcement is paid partially from the state's Fish & Game fund. By law, this fund may only be used for fish & wildlife conservation, including enforcement.
    Are you saying that monies, such as PR funds, are partially used for enforcement, David? Could the use of WE officers to do everyday blue shirt work be a misuse of public funds? Is there a potential for legal action against the state?
    Your more familiar with funding sources for F&G than the average guy here. Perhaps you could speak to how funding for enforcement would be affected if the WE dept was moved back into F&G.
    I suspect it would be a tooth and nail fight with Dept. of Pub Safety administrators to move wildlife enforcement back to F&G.

  9. #9

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    David,
    No insult was intentionally directed to the bio you named in your original post, I simply wanted to illustrate that individuals are always focused on their little piece of the puzzle. This bio is probably no different than the rest of us. As they go up the chain, the puzzle becomes more complex. I am relatively sure the Governor, Commissioners and yes even the lowest trooper on the totem pole, have a much better understanding of law enforcement needs and also the responsibility to allocate resources. A narrow minded viewpoint does not serve the populous well in any circumstance. At first blush, it appears by reading all the notorious game violations in the trooper reports, that the more serious violations are being handled. No doubt some of the lesser violations are being ignored, just as speeding(do we really want to be stopped every time we exceed the speed limit?), stop sign runners, expired plates, etc. Not nearly important as DUI, Hit and Run, etc. I recently reported a theft of services, to the troopers, their response was take civil action. They simply don't have the manpower to enforce the laws on the books. Just trying to put this whole thing in a perspective of reality expectations.

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default My opinion on wildlife enforcement

    Quote Originally Posted by David Johnson
    About three decades ago the state of Alaska moved the Division of Fish & Wildlife Protection (the "Game Wardens") from the Department of Fish and Game to the Department of Public Safety. That worked out well in some respects; less well in others. Fish & Wildlife troopers got better training -- but substantially less contact with biologists and resource managers....What do you think?
    I'd like to see a much stronger connection between the biologists and the enforcement folks. If that means bringing Wildlife Enforcement back under the ADFG umbrella, so be it. As far as training goes, send them to the Trooper academy in Sitka, and allow them opportunities for further training via the Troopers. By working closely with bios and such, I believe we'd see more meaningful enforcement activity among commercial operators too, rather than some of the harassment that has happened, involving less experienced officers. I like the idea that some of the enforcement dollars go to ADFG, to help fund the program.

    The state is growing and we're seeing more folks in the field. We need better Wildlife Enforcement.

    -Mike
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    Default I like the way it is now.

    I don't understand what advantage having a law enforcement officer talking to a biologist would do any good.

    What I expect from any law enforcement officer, is no matter who is breaking the law or wheir location, all laws are enforced equally.

    We are all equal under the law, this is not true when it comes to enforcing F&G reg.

    I like the way it is now.

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    I personally know of one instance where a friend wished the two would talk more. He talked to the biologist and followed what he said to the letter. Unforunately, the trooper had an entirely different view on the law. It cost him $1000. Yes, he should have checked it out himself but that's what he was trying to do.

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    Member calndux's Avatar
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    Default I would become a wildlife officer....

    up here if they went back to AF&G. I use to be a Wildlife Officer before moving to Alaska. I worked out of the AGFC and it was a good thing, because we all were hunters and had more knowledge and reason for the regulations, not like alot of troopers I talk to up here. The state says you now have to be a "road trooper" for two years before being a wildlife protection officer - "Bad thing as far as I am concerned...I would love to be a wilife protection officer, but I have no desire to be a "trooper". Some people don't realise the difference..and there is a difference. There are some disadvatages to being in AFG instead of through DPS - most only effect wildlife officers. One pay and retirement are usually less and you are sometime thought of as a nessecary evil.

    All in all it works out better for hunters and wildlife if game and fish enforcement are controled and handled through the game and fish regulator agency.

    I really hate having to deal with troopers that don't know or understand the regs, and who treat everyone as though they are felons. Most wildlife officers through AGF department treat hunters with respect and not like felons from the get go. However, I have arrest and treated my share of felons (murders, drug dealers, etc.).

    I just think we are all better off with game laws being enforced by the regulatory agency put in place to manage the game.

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    Good points calndux. Especially about being familiar with hunting. There is no reason this state can't have both troopers and wardens separate except that our legislators and Gov. want to spend money on pet projects instead of things that are important.

    Rutting moose, most regs are made with input from biologists to affect a certain situation. Sometimes other considerations of how the regs will affect hubters if the reg is read strictly by the book are not considered. People get charged for something that was not the original intent of the biologists when the reg was put into place. If enforcement talked regs over with the biologists, they might understand the purpose of the reg better and overlook the unintended consequence.

    Here in Cordova, a friend asked a biologist about his interpretation of a new reg and asked if a certain practice was legal. The biologist who had recommended the reg said certainly. This is what we are trying to accomplish. But when my friend told me what he was going to do, I had him read the reg again and told him he shouild talk to enforcement because they are the ones who will arrest you.

    He put out feelers and sure enough, found out enforcement was going to enforce the reg strictly by the book and my friend would have been charged had he taken the biologist's advise and been checked.

  15. #15

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    It was the Fish & Wildlife protection officers themselves who wanted to move from ADFG to Public Safety years ago for reasons of pay and benefits. It's doubtful that the enforcement officers themselves would want to go back under ADFG due to the different bargining units and retirement benefits. Still it still managed to work out as long as they wore the brown shirts. Like calndux said, those guys went into it for the wildlife aspect. Now that they are wearing blue shirts, it will get tougher to find those guys who have the passion for wildlife that will want to go through the trooper training.

    ABWE officers and biologist talk to each other all the time. Every year the fisheries biologists put together a list of enforcement priorities to better focus enforcement activities. Biologists relay reports of violations directly to officers that work in their area and will even go out in the field with them. Biologists often will spend a day or two showing a new enforcement officer the streams, access points, and areas of high violations.

    As far as interpretations of regulations go, they will vary from biologist to trooper and even from trooper to trooper. Remember the whole "how to measure a legal ram" discussion?

    Continue to report violations so ABWE (Alaska Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement) can document all the activity they are unable to respond to.

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    Moderator David Johnson's Avatar
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    Default Funding sources

    Quote Originally Posted by martentrapper
    Are you saying that monies, such as PR funds, are partially used for enforcement, David? Could the use of WE officers to do everyday blue shirt work be a misuse of public funds? Is there a potential for legal action against the state?
    By federal statute, PR (Pittman-Robertson federal aid) funds may not be used for fish and wildlife or any other law enforcement purposes. I do not know the specifics, but I would guess that troopers are recording their time spent in various areas to insure appropriate use of funding.

    My memory is that the fish & wildlife law enforcement function has been partially funded by the state's fish & game fund and partially by the general fund.

    David
    David M Johnson
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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Rationale of ADFG Enforcement

    Quote Originally Posted by Rutting Moose
    I don't understand what advantage having a law enforcement officer talking to a biologist would do any good...

    We are all equal under the law, this is not true when it comes to enforcing F&G reg.
    Tom,

    There are all sorts of advantages to a connection of this sort. Calndux made some good points in this regard, as did Twodux. I'll add that biologists tend to hear and see things either directly in the field or as a result of their connections, that could be useful to an enforcement officer. This would also put the emphasis back on wildlife enforcement, which is clearly taking a back seat to other duties right now.

    Could you clarify you second comment about unequal enforcement of fish and game regulations? I'm not sure what you mean by that.

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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    When I worked for F&G the Game Biologist and 2 of the Fisheries Biologist I worked with carried badges. What's wrong with giving a badge and training too all the Fish and Game Biologist?

  19. #19
    Moderator David Johnson's Avatar
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    Default Biologists with badges

    Quote Originally Posted by AlleninAlaska
    When I worked for F&G the Game Biologist and 2 of the Fisheries Biologist I worked with carried badges. What's wrong with giving a badge and training too all the Fish and Game Biologist?
    It really is a good idea. Biologists are often in the field and have good opportunities to make contacts...which sometimes lead to citations. It's a great supplement, but there is not really time to do much of this. Most field biologists have more to do than they can handle, and adding a significant law enforcement obligation would mean less resource management.

    David
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    Default $0.02

    It seems to me that deputizing at least some Fish and Game technicians could do a lot to enhance F&G enforcement without putting an undue "enforcement burden" on the department's biologists or distracting the Troopers from "more important" enforcement priorities. The F&G technicians are the guys and gals who do a lot of the legwork in the field for the biologists, and generally have permanent seasonal employment status.

    I've spent a few summers as an F&G tech and I can think of one assignment in particular (creel census at the Kasilof River pullouts) where it would have been no burden at all to be checking everyone's sportfish licenses in addition to doing the fishermen interviews, taking scale samples, etc. As you can probably imagine, I saw plenty of behavior that summer that ranged from shady to clearly illegal but could do nothing about it besides pull out a cell phone and call the Trooper headquarters in Soldotna.

    Let me be clear: I'm not recommending that every F&G field grunt be given license to moonlight as an enforcement officer. They wouldn't have adequate training and they have a research-oriented job description to be primarily concerned with. However, there are definitely situations where the technicians can and should be able to do routine license checking, safety inspections, etc. It's frustrating as a technician to not have that ability when it would be so easy to do, and it's also frustrating for law-abiding folks that F&G employees aren't able to ticket Joe Snagger doing his thing right in front of them.

    Lastly, I think some enhanced enforcement from within F&G could do a lot to improve rapport between the department and the public - rapport that's extremely important since the department often depends heavily on the cooperation of the public to carry out their research.

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