A conservation officer may also be called a gamekeeper, game warden, environmental technician/technologist, investigator, park ranger, ranger, wildlife officer, wilderness officer, or wildlife trooper, all of which fall under the rubric of National Occupational Classification code 2224.
Duties of conservation officers vary depending upon the type of area they live in. For example, while rural areas may experience issues dealing with wildlife and natural resources, large cites encounter problems because of pollution and dumping of chemical waste (Huss 14). Conservation officers report on the conditions of wildlife and their habitats, recommend changes in hunting and trapping seasons, resolve conflicts between hunters and land management experts and implement control measures such as trapping or relocating animals. They also patrol areas in order to prevent the illegal killing of game and prevent the pollution of waterways and investigate suspected violations (Lawson 332). As well as dealing with the environment, conservation officers are also expected to raise public awareness: “An Experienced conservation officers give seminars to educate the public on ecology and the value of natural heritage… and seminar topics include gun safety and the needs of wildlife” (Lawson 342).
Conservation officers can be traced back to the Middle Ages (see gamekeeper). Their modern history is linked to that of the conservation movement, and has varied greatly between different regions of the world. The history of conservation officers in New York is a good example of the general progress from gamekeeper to conservation officer.
New York State History
Conservation officers in New York state are known as 'environmental conservation officers' or ECOs. ECOs have been around for more than 125 years although originally they were known as 'game protectors'. The first game protectors were eight men given the authorization of arresting any who violated the wildlife on protected land. Their job was to protect game and catch poachers, although they went beyond this by protecting streams from pollution as well. In 1960 their title was changed to 'conservation officers', and in 1970 were given the current title of 'environmental conservation officers' after the Conservation Department and the State Health Department merged to become to Department of Environmental Conservation. At the same time, their status was changed from peace officer to police officer, allowing them more legal power than they had been previously allowed. (Huss 15).
Conservation officers generally have a degree in something that deals with wildlife resources, recreation management, fish and wildlife management, criminal justice, or a science major related to these. Most start out their career as a trainee under the supervision of an experienced conservation officer. Although dependent on country, after graduation and completion of the trainee program many go to law enforcement school to become a peace officer. In America conservation officers must also take and pass the state civil service exam for Environmental Conservation Officers (Huss 13).
Conservation officers by region
- Alaska State Troopers-Wildlife Enforcement Troopers
- Arizona Game and Fish Department
- California Department of Fish and Game
- Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Office of Law Enforcement
- Indiana Department of Natural Resources
- Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
- Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries – Enforcement Division
- Maine Warden Service
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police
- Michigan Conservation Officers
- Missouri Department of Conservation
- Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Police
- New York State Forest Rangers
- North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources
- North Carolina Marine Patrol
- North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
- Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
- Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
- Pennsylvania Game Commission
- Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management- Environmental Police
- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
- Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
- Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of State Parks
- Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife
- Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
- "OCCinfo - Conservation Officer". Alis.alberta.ca. Retrieved 2012-08-05.
- Huss, Timothy. "Outdoor Office." New York State Conservationist 64.2 (2009): 12-15. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
- Lawson, Helene M. "Controlling the Wilderness: The Work of Wilderness Officers." Society & Animals 11.4 (2003): 329-351. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
- "Warden Trainee." Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. mt.gov. Web. 05 Dec. 2011.