The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recognizes the public safety protection efforts of Federal Wildlife Officers who in 2020 successfully led the seizure of 13,615 pounds of illegal narcotics on national wildlife refuges. The 2020 street value of the seizures was $43 million — 17 times more than in 2019, which was $2.5 million. The Trump Administration has made it a priority to end the drug overdose epidemic that kills approximately 70,000 Americans each year.
“Federal Wildlife Officers successfully stopped thousands of pounds of deadly narcotics from reaching our communities this year, and they continue to serve with distinction every day in protecting national wildlife refuges,” said Rob Wallace, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. “The Trump Administration is working day in and day out to protect our citizens from illicit drugs and violence.”
The National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the Service, is the nation’s largest network of public lands dedicated to wildlife conservation. Federal Wildlife Officers who serve and protect the resources of the Refuge System provide visitors with safe access to wildlife viewing and photography, fishing and hunting activities. These officers are among the most visible and recognizable conservation professionals entrusted with safeguarding the integrity of the nation’s wildlife refuges while ensuring public safety. They combine resource protection, traditional policing and emergency first response to protect, serve and educate the public and Service staff. This includes stopping illegal narcotics smuggling and possession on Refuge System lands.
“Under the Trump Administration, our law enforcement has been effective in protecting wildlife and habitat and making refuges safe places for staff and visitors while preventing illegal narcotics from further afflicting communities across this nation,” said Service Director Aurelia Skipwith. “I am proud of the Service’s Federal Wildlife Officers and the incredible work they are doing on the ground to combat illicit drug activities on national wildlife refuges.”
Federal Wildlife Officers work in partnership with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Drug Enforcement Agency, and Tribal, state and local governments to address the flow of illegal drug trafficking and to mitigate the impacts associated with these activities.
Illegal narcotics smuggling is dangerous not only to the public, it also damages the fragile habitats that national wildlife refuges protect and includes displacing native vegetation, soil erosion and contamination as well as disturbing wildlife. In June 2020, an active marijuana grow site was discovered on a national wildlife refuge in California. Approximately 3,000 marijuana plants and 1,580 pounds of trash were removed. This year, in the southwest, Federal Wildlife Officers seized 1,050 pounds of illegal narcotics.
Federal Wildlife Officers receive extensive training in proactive law enforcement practices. They have employed multiple methods of illegal narcotic interdiction including the use of Federal Wildlife Canine Officers. Federal Wildlife Canines serve as patrol partners, and they help locate people, evidence, contraband and wildlife. This July in Arizona, a Federal Wildlife Canine Officer intercepted three individuals with 61 pounds of methamphetamine on a national wildlife refuge.
More information on the Refuge System’s law enforcement, including careers, can be found online at: https://www.fws.gov/refuges/lawenforcement/.
Founded by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, the National Wildlife Refuge System is an unparalleled network of 568 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas. The Refuge System receives nearly 60 million annual visits. National wildlife refuges provide vital habitat for thousands of species and access to world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting and paddling to nature watching, photography and environmental education.