The Tribal Conservation Program is charged with enforcing fish, wildlife and recreation laws, but the program’s conservation wardens also coordinate search and rescue operations, collect fish and wildlife data, assist the public when they encounter problems with wildlife and make a variety of presentations to area education and civic groups.
Cross-deputized as state wardens, tribal conservation wardens enforce tribal, state and federal fish, wildlife and recreation laws and regulations on the Flathead Indian Reservation and within aboriginal territory. Conservation wardens also work to ensure compliance with boating, snowmobile and off-road vehicle rules. They patrol all parts of the reservation, from highways and backcountry roads to wilderness trails, lakes and streams. Checking as many as 6,500 permits a year, they use every opportunity to disseminate current conservation information to the public.
When reservation residents encounter problems with wildlife, the wardens are generally the first to respond. They investigate complaints in order to detect and document misdemeanors and violations, they set traps for problem bears, use a variety of techniques to resolve conflicts with mountain lions and other species, and talk with landowners about living cooperatively with wildlife. They also handle injured raptors and assist biologists with wildlife transportation.
Conservation officers are required to carry a firearm and are expected to maintain a minimal standard of physical fitness. Conservation officers will be expected to demonstrate their physical fitness on a regular basis.
Conservation officers are hired initially as an Officer 1 Warden. All trainees must complete a 12-week residential basic training academy. This academy emphasizes police skills, including criminal law, civil law, investigation techniques, defensive tactics and use of force. They then must perform enforcement work under close and continuous supervision of a conservation officer during the one-year probation period.
Conservation wardens are required to be proficient in the use of firearms consisting of pistols, shotguns and rifles. Officers qualify twice a year at an area shooting range under supervision. Pistol qualification is a 30-round qualifying course of fire. Shotguns and rifles proficiency qualifications are secondary and require a score of 85 percent accuracy.
At times, they are expected to work long and irregular hours on outdoor patrols.
For more information regarding Conservation officers contact Chief Pablo Espinoza or Germaine White at 675-2700.