Since 1903, Game Wardens, now called Conservation Police Officers (CPO) have patrolled Virginia’s outdoors protecting our fish and wildlife resources. Their role and duties have dramatically increased since this time and the modern Conservation Police Officer not only protects our natural resources, but our safety as well.
CPOs have full police powers and are sworn to protect wildlife and the public’s safety in our woods, fields and waterways. Conservation Law Enforcement is a vital tool in protecting and managing Virginia’s wildlife. Through the enforcement of fish and game laws and regulations, Conservation Police Officers help to maintain populations and support and sustain wildlife management programs.
Their job has become increasingly difficult due to hiring freezes on officers and dispatchers. Human populations have grown, which has increased the number of calls for service to the VA Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF); however, in the last decade, the numbers of CPOs and dispatchers have been greatly reduced. There is typically only one officer assigned to most counties and some counties have no officer at all! Therefore, officers must patrol hundreds of square miles, in addition to the other public relations and education duties assigned to them. They usually work alone and almost everyone they encounter is armed. Dealing with armed violators is a serious threat to our officers, with backup miles away and insufficient support from their dispatch center.
Having a sufficient number of officers to patrol areas, where illegal activity is reported, is vital to the effective management of wildlife resources and our safety. Poaching is a continuing threat to wildlife; it is bigger than the illegal gun trade. Trespassing and other types of illegal hunting and fishing activity are the most numerous complaints received in the dispatch center. These violators greatly affect wildlife populations and the safety of the citizens of the Commonwealth.
The protection and management of natural resources needs public support so it exists for future generations to enjoy. You can make demands on legislators and VDGIF managers. You can ask legislators to increase a program’s strength and add the necessary resources to protect Virginia’s wildlife and our safety. We decide what programs we want in this state only by speaking out, in numbers, to our legislature so they know what is important to us.
The picture featured above is of a hawk that was rescued by a Conservation Police Officer and successfully released back into the wild. Protect our wildlife and protect your safety while in the great outdoors. Please sign this petition and show your support for Virginia’s Conservation Police Officers.