Environmental protection officers (EPOs) may go by different names, including
conservation officers, game wardens, fish and wildlife officers or enforcement
In many areas, their responsibilities might include tasks associated with
education, prevention and law enforcement.
EPOs work for branches of the federal or state governments. Or they might
work for federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency.
EPOs are peace officers. They investigate, interview, carry firearms, make
arrests, conduct searches and serve warrants. They enforce legislation.
Depending on the branch and the geographic location, they may deal with
issues such as hunting and fishing violations, water diversion, toxic waste,
pollutants or smuggling of contraband plant and animal products.
In some cases, EPOs may be responsible for public safety issues, such as
executing search and rescues or avalanche rescues.
Plus, EPOs make public speeches, give educational presentations to students
and other interested groups, perform administrative functions and travel and
consult with colleagues in other areas.
In some cases, special agents may go undercover and perform covert investigations
into suspected illegal activities.
Timothy Santel is a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
He is also president of the Federal Wildlife Officers Association. He estimates
that about 200 federal special agents are doing wildlife enforcement.
"A point to remember is that the term 'environmental protection officer'
is not really used in the States," he says. "In my mind, that would include
conservation police officers, game wardens, special agents, environmental
police officers and more. There are probably thousands of these types of jobs.
"Within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we have special agents, wildlife
inspectors and refuge officers. These three positions enforce wildlife laws
for the USFWS. However, the other agencies have similar positions, including
the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Forest Service."