My Memoir: Badges, Bears, and Eagles
Welcome! I’m not sure where this blog will take me yet, but it will cover subjects that are dear to my heart and especially those that have some connection with my memoir, Badges, Bears, and Eagles, which will be released by Coffeetown Press on March 1, 2013. Although I am retired, I stay current with new legislation, high- and low-profile cases involving hunting and fishing, and environmental causes. I will weigh in on these and other topics in future posts.
I thought I would begin by providing an excerpt from the introduction to my book. I look forward to hearing from you, my readers, and helping to bring important issues involving conservation and animal protection to the public’s attention.
Badges, Bears, and Eagles describes what it was like to be a California Fish and Game warden during the last quarter of the Twentieth Century—working routine details from one end of the state to the other and conducting some of the most successful wildlife-related investigations in California history.
It’s important to point out that the overwhelming majority of North America’s hunters and fishermen are conscientious, law-abiding sportsmen who contribute hundreds of millions of dollars, every year, toward the purchase of wildlands and the improvement of fish and wildlife habitat. They do it through the excise taxes they pay on firearms, ammunition and fishing equipment. State and federal fish and wildlife programs are dependent upon funds from the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses, tags and stamps. Some people oppose hunting because they dislike the idea of individual animals being killed. I don’t want to go into exhaustive detail, but here is the theory of wildlife management in a nutshell: literally billions of animals exist today because of habitat saved, improved or created with funds provided by legal sport hunters and fishermen. These funds help not just game species, but nongame birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and beneficial insects—butterflies, pollinating bees and hundreds of others.
Along with the good guys, there will always be a small percentage of individuals who choose to break the law—the outlaws, the game hogs, the poachers and worst of all, those who would exploit our fish and wildlife resources for personal profit. These people have little or no regard for the law or the rights of others. They often justify their actions with narrow-minded, self-serving rationalizations. Here is one example: Fish and Game Warden Rick Banko arrested a Del Norte County poacher for killing an elk inside Redwood National Park. When Banko asked this outlaw what he thought should happen to someone who kills an elk in the National Park, the man responded, “These animals were put here for us to use.” California’s elk population wouldn’t last a week if everyone shared that attitude.
“Habitat is where it’s at,” as they say, but the only way to maintain healthy populations of fish and wildlife in a state with thirty-eight million people is by establishing laws and providing dedicated, well-trained officers to enforce those laws.
Badges, Bears and Eagles is based on events that actually happened. The dialogue has been reconstructed from my memory, but also from interviews, officers’ records, transcripts and court documents. Some scenes involving the perpetrators have been dramatically enhanced in a way that fits the available facts.
I wrote this book because I want people to know that there are wildlife officers out there who are passionate about wildlife, proactive and capable of putting together complex investigations. More than just ticket writers and fishing license checkers, many of today’s state and federal wildlife officers are highly sophisticated professionals, putting their lives on the line for the protection of our rapidly diminishing natural resources.