The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is pleased to announce that Assistant Chief John Baker has been selected as the 2018 Shikar-Safari Club International Wildlife Officer of the Year. Asst. Chief Baker, who began his wildlife career as a student assistant with the CDFW Law Enforcement Division, has served the people of California and its incredible natural resources for over 30 years. He has distinguished himself through his successful enforcement work, commitment to public service, progressive thinking and strong leadership skills.
Upon completion of the Wildlife Officer Academy in 1992, Warden Baker started his long career with a field assignment in Santa Barbara County, eventually moving into an assignment in the San Joaquin Valley. Over the years, he has demonstrated exceptional investigation skills in traditional poaching cases, but also the more complicated natural resource related crimes such as pollution and water theft. Another one of his career-long projects has been leading the transition from handwritten to electronic recordkeeping by field officers statewide. The data generated by those electronic records has helped the Law Enforcement Division secure and defend overtime allotments, justify new positions and position movements and answer countless questions from legislators and policymakers about poaching and pollution trends.
In the mid-2000s, Asst. Chief Baker found that CDFW was spending more and more time doing law enforcement work related to illegal cannabis cultivation with allied law enforcement agencies. While allied agencies’ focus was most often on the plants themselves, Asst. Chief Baker recognized the need to allocate time and resources to combating other problems associated with cannabis cultivation – poaching, pollution, habitat destruction and water theft. Investigation and prosecution of those environmental crimes resonated well with the public, and some of that early work set the stage to transition into the broader range of illegal cannabis cultivation enforcement work done today.
Several years ago, Asst. Chief Baker realized there was a need for greater public outreach to the Hmong community of the San Joaquin Valley. He participated in a series of radio interviews broadcast to primarily Hmong listeners to welcome those community members to a lifetime of hunting and fishing as a recreation and as a way to feed their families. As part of that effort, he helped explain what is required to have a successful hunting or fishing trip and stay in compliance with the law.
Another significant accomplishment by Asst. Chief Baker is his commitment to the annual Battle of the Badges blood drive. The friendly competition pits law enforcement against firefighters to see who can donate the most blood, a precious resource to the community. Asst. Chief Baker is there every year rolling up his sleeves to take part himself and to inspire others to do the same.
Shikar-Safari was founded in 1952 as a hunting organization but quickly recognized its potential to effect meaningful change in the area of wildlife conservation. Funds raised by the Shikar-Safari Club International Foundation are used to support various conservation projects in the United States and throughout the world.
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692