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Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter

Representing the 1st District of New Hampshire

Shea-Porter and Grijalva Question Trump Administration Decision to Disarm and Decommission Dual Status National Wildlife Refuge Officers

October 4, 2018
Press Release
Policy change could lead to more violations in wildlife refuges and puts Fish and Wildlife Service employees at increased risk of harm

WASHINGTON, DC— Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) and Congressman Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, today sent a letter to Cynthia Martinez, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System (the System), requesting additional information on recent changes to FWS policy that would decommission dual status officers in the System.

“We are concerned that removing dual status officers, even if they are replaced by some full-time officers, will lead to less geographic coverage for the more than 560 refuges across the United States and to an increase in violations in the System,” wrote Shea-Porter and Grijalva. “Additionally, we are concerned for the safety of those FWS employees who will lose their law enforcement credentials and yet still be responsible for managing remote areas where illegal hunting and illegal marijuana grow sites could put employees at risk of a violent confrontation.”

Dual status officers are wildlife refuge managers who are also trained wildlife law enforcement officers. They enforce refuge laws and can encounter dangerous situations as they work to stop illegal hunting and other illegal activities in wildlife refuges. Shea-Porter and Grijalva requested additional information on how the wildlife system will ensure law enforcement coverage across all areas of the System.

 

The full text of the letter is below:

Chief Cynthia Martinez
National Wildlife Refuge System
5275 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041
FWS ANRS 068994

Dear Chief Martinez:

We are seeking additional information on the recent Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) policy to decommission all dual function officers in the National Wildlife Refuge System (the System).

As you yourself have stated, law enforcement is a critical component of wildlife conservation in America. We are concerned that removing dual status officers, even if they are replaced by some full-time officers, will lead to less geographic coverage for the more than 560 refuges across the United States and to an increase in violations in the System. In 2004, the International Association of Chiefs of Police estimated that over 800 full-time law enforcement officers were necessary to adequately cover the sheer size of the System. Additionally, we are concerned for the safety of those FWS employees who will lose their law enforcement credentials and yet still be responsible for managing remote areas where illegal hunting and illegal marijuana grow sites could put employees at risk of a violent confrontation.

Considering these concerns, we respectfully request that you provide responses to the following:

  • What steps are in place, or will be in place, to ensure that managers operating in remote areas will be protected from those that would misuse the System?
  • How many full-time law enforcement officers will be hired to replace the decommissioned dual status officers?
  • How will law enforcement officers be distributed within the System?
    • How many law enforcement officers will be assigned to each region?
    • How many refuges will have full-time (daily or near-daily) law enforcement coverage?
    • How many refuges will have part-time law enforcement coverage?
    • How many refuges will have no law enforcement coverage?
  • Will you be requesting additional appropriations for Fiscal Year 2020 to hire additional full-time law enforcement officers to fill any coverage gaps?
    • If so, how much will you request?

Thank you for your service, and we appreciate your attention to this matter. We look forward to receiving your response.        

Sincerely,

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