Tag Archives: Wildlife Officer of the Year

CDFW Honors Wildlife Officer of the Year

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.”

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Media Contact:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692

 

California Fish and Game Commission Meets in Sacramento

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.

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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.

 

Media Contact:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

Nicole Kozicki Recognized Nationally as Wildlife Officer of the Year

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is proud to announce that Wildlife Officer Nicole Kozicki has been selected as the Pogue-Elms Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. The award, which was formally presented to her at the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) annual conference on July 10, is considered their highest honor. Kozicki is also the first female recipient of the award.

CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division selected Kozicki as the 2017 Wildlife Officer of the Year, which led to her nomination for the WAFWA award. Kozicki has honorably represented CDFW in the San Francisco Bay Area and its communities for 27 years.

“We are very happy to see Wildlife Officer Kozicki receive the Pogue-Elms award for her extraordinary dedication to the protection of California’s natural resources,” said Assistant Chief Steve Riske, who supervises Kozicki. “Her tireless investigations of poaching, pollution, and environmental crimes are an example to her fellow wildlife officers in California and to others throughout the country. Her reputation brings great credit to herself, CDFW and California.”

Kozicki’s ability to handle complex, large-scale investigations — many of which have involved harm to threatened and endangered species — has earned her a reputation as an expert in the field of environmental crimes. Throughout her career, Kozicki has led hundreds of streambed alteration and pollution cases to successful prosecution. Her tireless pursuit of the truth has resulted in hundreds of acres of mitigated lands being preserved in perpetuity and has generated millions of dollars in fines. Fellow wildlife officers as well as investigators from local, state and federal agencies often seek her investigation expertise.

Among the greatest of Kozicki’s accomplishments is her leadership of an investigation related to illegal development practices that threatened two endangered species – the California tiger salamander and the red-legged frog – at Dublin Ranch in Alameda County. Conducted jointly with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the three-year investigation uncovered numerous violations of state and federal law, including egregious grading and illegal stream alterations, habitat destruction and falsification of permitting documents. Kozicki provided testimony in state court for two full weeks. The developer eventually pled no contest to charges of submitting fraudulent documents in an attempt to avoid development requirements.  The terms of the plea agreement between the developer, the California Attorney General’s Office and CDFW included almost $1.1 million in fines and restitution, preservation of 107 acres of land in Contra Costa County (known as the Brown Ranch) in a conservation easement and $300,000 put into an account to manage the property.

“Wildlife Officer Kozicki has an extraordinary capability and reputation for investigating cases that affect not only California’s fish and wildlife, but the very habitat where those fish and wildlife live,” said David Bess, Chief of CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division. “The benefits of her investigations will be measured for generations to come.”

WAFWA represents 23 states and Canadian provinces, spanning from Alaska to Texas and Hawaii to Saskatchewan. WAFWA is a strong advocate of the rights of states and provinces to manage fish and wildlife within their borders. It has also been a key organization in promoting the principles of sound resource management and the building of partnerships at the regional, national and international levels in order to enhance wildlife conservation efforts and the protection of associated habitats in the public interest. Idaho Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Officers Bill Pogue and Conley Elms were killed in the line of duty in 1981, during a poaching investigation. WAFWA created the award in their honor.

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Media Contact:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-9982

Shikar-Safari Club International Honors Lt. Sheree Christensen as Wildlife Officer of the Year

Lt. Sheree Christensen - 2014 Wildlife Officer of the Year.
Lt. Sheree Christensen – 2014 Wildlife Officer of the Year.
Media Contacts:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Sheree Christensen was recently selected by the Shikar-Safari Club International as the recipient of its 2014 Wildlife Officer of the Year award.

Each year, the club honors a wildlife officer who has shown exemplary conduct and initiative in the performance of his or her duties. Christensen was selected for her innate ability to lead by example. She has worked in Contra Costa and Alameda counties for more than 25 years and understands local natural resource issues better than anyone in the area. Christensen is known to take the extra step and share her experience and knowledge with those who work with her. She takes the time to teach other wildlife officers within and outside of her squad about San Francisco Bay Area natural resource issues, the laws that protect the resources and why those laws were enacted.

Without hesitation, Christensen accompanies the wildlife officers she supervises on boat patrols, fish business inspections, decoy operations, wildlife checkpoints, undercover operations, investigating illegal streambed alterations and pollution incidents. She has been a leader in CDFW’s tenacious effort to stop the illegal sale of prohibited, threatened and endangered species. Christensen has led many special enforcement details to target those who sell recreationally caught fish for personal profit. She prepares the detail plans, utilizing members of her squad, other CDFW squads and allied law enforcement agencies, and follows the cases from the investigation stage through the prosecution stage. Countless state resources have been protected by the tireless efforts of Christensen.

CDFW congratulates Lt. Christensen on this exceptional honor.

Shikar-Safari was founded in 1952 as a hunting organization but quickly recognized its potential to affect 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.