|The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is pleased to announce the addition of 31 Wildlife Officer Academy graduates to the Law Enforcement Division.
The Wildlife Officer Academy Class 62 graduation ceremony took place Friday, Aug. 9, at the Paradise Performing Arts Center in Paradise, Butte County. The 31 newly graduated wildlife officers will begin the CDFW Field Training Program to put their training into practice under the close supervision of experienced Field Training Officers (FTOs). Three additional cadets paid their way through the Academy as “self-sponsors” in the interest of applying for a wildlife officer position with the CDFW Law Enforcement Division or a different law enforcement agency.
CDFW’s Wildlife Officer Academy is certified through the California Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) and offers training consistent with every law enforcement agency in California. Field training with experienced FTOs is also mandated by POST to be sure new wildlife officers can apply the skills they learned during the academy to real life circumstances. The Field Training Program is the final stage of formal training. Upon successful completion, these officers will begin patrolling California to protect the natural resources of this great state.
The Academy has been located at Butte College since 2008 and provides peace officer academy training to California’s prospective wildlife officers. That partnership provided CDFW a state-of-the-art POST-certified academy facility with nearly 50 years of police training history.
CDFW recognizes the citizens of Butte County, and Paradise in particular, for their steadfast resolve to overcome the devastating Camp Fire. Some of those affected by the disaster are instructors, caretakers of Butte College, nearby business owners and employees, and others who keep the Academy and Butte College moving forward. “We acknowledge the efforts of those who trained our cadets while at the same time recovering from devastating losses,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “Congratulations to the staff and graduating wildlife officers of Academy 62 for your accomplishments during trying times.”
Wildlife officers make contact with more than 295,000 people and issue more than 15,000 citations annually. These officers primarily work alone, in remote areas, contacting subjects who almost always have some form of weapon, and they do so knowing that backup could be hours away. Wildlife officers have large patrol districts and great responsibilities, and frequently a sole officer will cover an entire county. The average California wildlife officer’s patrol district exceeds 500 square miles.
For more information about becoming a wildlife officer and the application timeline, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/enforcement/career.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Division has selected Warden Anastasia Norris as the 2019 Wildlife Officer of the Year.
“Warden Norris has spent plenty of time doing traditional wildlife law enforcement work, but her expertise in oil spill investigations and response is where she has shined over the course of her career,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “Investigations involving habitat damage from oil and hazardous materials spills are integral to the Law Enforcement Division’s mission. Warden Norris is one of the finest in this regard.”
Warden Norris received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Animal Sciences from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1998 and a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from the University of Oklahoma in 2001. She graduated as part of Academy Class 53 at Butte College in 2009 and began her career as a wildlife officer in Long Beach, where she gained expertise in marine enforcement and commercial fishing.
She soon transferred to the CDFW Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR), where she has excelled as the State On-Scene Coordinator and/or lead investigator for 20 complicated oil and hazardous materials spills. In 2015, Norris was designated the lead investigator on the Plains All-American/Refugio spill in Santa Barbara County, one of the largest and most detrimental oil spills to hit California’s coast in the last 50 years.
The Refugio oil spill began on May 19, 2015. Norris managed and coordinated the evidence and documentation efforts throughout the investigation, including embarking upon a cross-country drive to ensure chain-of-custody and security of a seized section of pipeline in Ohio. She interviewed dozens of witnesses during the investigation. The final 118-page report included support documentation that was an additional 13 inches thick. Norris also provided support for the prosecution and was in court every day of the almost four-month duration of the trial. On Sept. 7, 2018, guilty verdicts were reached on nine counts, including eight misdemeanors and one felony. Even while the Refugio investigation was dominating her workload, Norris continued to respond to numerous other petroleum spills.
“Warden Norris is the force behind major investigations involving water pollution and numerous environmental statutes and regulations affecting our great state’s waterways and ocean environment,” said Brett Morris, Supervising Deputy Attorney General of the California Attorney General’s Office, which prosecuted the Refugio case. “While away from her assigned beat and her family for over three months, Warden Norris successfully guided to conviction the largest criminal prosecution of corporate water polluters in Santa Barbara County’s history.”
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692
At its August 2019 meeting in Sacramento, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from the two-day meeting.
The Commission and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division David Bess presented an award to Jessica Brown, who earned the title of 2018 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year. Brown is Supervising City Attorney for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Environmental Justice Unit. As she accepted the award, Brown acknowledged her team of superb prosecutors, all of whom are highly dedicated to the successful prosecution of fish and wildlife cases. Brown, along with her team, has shown steadfast dedication to CDFW’s cases and to protecting and conserving California’s natural resources.
At the Commission meeting Chief Bess also presented the Wildlife Officer of the Year Award to Warden Anastasia Norris for her exceptional efforts to investigate highly technical petroleum pollution cases and guide them to conviction. She took the initiative to become a pipeline and corrosion expert and this has benefitted CDFW in many oil spill cases. Her work on the May 2015 Refugio oil spill in Santa Barbara kept her stationed away from her family for three months. Norris accepted the award with her family present.
The Commission honored Valerie Termini for her service as Executive Director from 2016-2018. Termini was the first ever female Executive Director of the Commission and brought integrity and professionalism to the position. President Eric Sklar presented Termini with a Commission resolution and gift from the commissioners. Termini served as Executive Director until CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham requested she serve in an acting role as CDFW Chief Deputy Director in November, a position to which she was officially appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom in June.
The Commission began the regulatory process to ban possession of live nutria, a large, brown, fur-bearing, aquatic rodent native to South America. CDFW is seeking a regulatory change from the Commission in order to prevent further spread of this persistent invasive species. In California, nutria pose a significant threat as an agricultural pest, a destroyer of critical wetlands needed by native wildlife, and a public safety risk as their destructive burrowing jeopardizes the state’s water delivery and flood control infrastructure. CDFW has a robust detection and eradication effort underway in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in order to limit the invasive rodents’ spread and impact on California’s most important water resource and the heart of the state’s water delivery and infrastructure.
The Commission also determined that listing San Bernardino kangaroo rat as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review of the species and the Commission will make a final decision at a future meeting. During the status review, the San Bernardino kangaroo rat is protected under CESA as a candidate species.
The Commission also directed staff to continue working with CDFW and stakeholders to revise a draft Delta fisheries management policy, including potential revisions to the existing striped bass policy.
President Sklar and Commissioners Russell Burns, Samantha Murray and Peter Silva were present. Commission Vice President Jacque Hostler-Carmesin was absent.
The full Commission agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at www.fgc.ca.gov. An archived video will also be available in coming days.
The California Fish and Game Commission was the first wildlife conservation agency in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. There is often confusion about the distinction between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Commission. In the most basic terms, CDFW implements and enforces the regulations set by the Commission, as well as provides biological data and expertise to inform the Commission’s decision-making process.
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937
California’s dove hunting season is rapidly approaching, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting applications for dove hunts throughout the state on both public land and private ranches.
Hunters are reminded that nonlead ammunition is now required for hunting doves and taking wildlife anywhere in California with a firearm.
The first half of the split dove season will be open statewide from Sept. 1-15, 2019. The second half will be open statewide from Nov. 9 through Dec. 23, 2019.
For mourning dove and white-winged dove, the daily bag limit is 15, up to 10 of which may be white-winged doves. The possession limit is triple the daily bag limit. There is no limit for spotted dove or ringed dove, but the season dates are the same as for mourning dove and white-winged dove. Eurasian collared-dove is the only dove species that can be hunted year-round, with no bag or possession limit.
Several dove hunting opportunities are available by drawing only throughout California for the upcoming dove season as part of CDFW’s Upland Game and SHARE programs.
Special drawings for public land dove hunting opportunities through the Upland Game Bird Hunting program will be available at the following locations:
- Merced and Stanislaus counties: North Grasslands Wildlife Area (China Island and Salt Slough units), Los Banos Wildlife Area
- Sacramento County: Cosumnes River Preserve
- Fresno County: Pilibos Unit of the Mendota Wildlife Area
- San Diego County: San Felipe Wildlife Area
- San Luis Obispo County: North Chimineas Ranch, Carrizo Plains Ecological Reserve
Drawings for limited public access to private lands through the SHARE Program will be available at the following locations:
- Santa Barbara County: Harrington Farms, Jones Ranch and Sleepy Creek Ranch
- Tulare County: Hart Ranch
Additional information can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds/hunts and www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/share.
Firearms, Poaching and Trash Discovered at Protected Ecological Reserve
On July 12, wildlife officers at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) shut down a black market marijuana operation on state property in Sacramento County. This was part of a complex investigation conducted by CDFW’s special operations unit.
Support was provided by the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, which included the U.S. Forest Service, the California Department of Justice, the National Guard and other allied agencies who assisted wildlife officers with the eradication and reclamation efforts.
The illegal grow consisted of two side by side properties: one parcel was owned by CDFW and the other was owned by The Nature Conservancy. Both properties are part of the Cosumnes River Preserve.
“Discovering thousands of illegal marijuana plants on CDFW property and just 25 miles from the State Capitol demonstrates the brazen actions of those involved in the black market marijuana trade,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “There’s no question that operations of this nature prevent the legal cannabis market from thriving. The extra resources provided by Governor Newsom’s administration to shutdown illegal cultivation sites like this one are greatly needed and made this mission possible.”
During the mission, over 15,000 plants were eradicated, 3,000 pounds of processed marijuana was seized, three loaded firearms were confiscated and evidence of a poached deer was discovered. Prior to the operation, wildlife officers also observed the suspects shipping out more than 400 pounds of processed marijuana through a rented U-Haul truck which was also confiscated.
The grow was located in sensitive wildlife habitat. The property is home to hundreds of bird species, including the greater sandhill crane and Swainson’s hawk (both listed as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act), more than 40 types of fish including state listed steelhead and other wildlife such as the giant garter snake, the western pond turtle, deer, fox and an occasional mountain lion.
Numerous environmental violations were documented, including a sophisticated illegal water diversion, pesticide and petroleum products placed near streams, garbage placed near waterways, habitat destruction and substantially causing environmental harm to public land. Eleven suspects were arrested during the operation. Officers also removed 1,900 pounds of trash from the site through aerial support.
CDFW encourages the public to report illegal cannabis cultivation and environmental crimes such as water pollution, water diversions and poaching to the CalTIP hotline by calling (888) 334-2258 or texting information to “TIP411” (847411).
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 207-7891