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NEWS | Aug. 15, 2023

Conservation law enforcement partnership comes to JBLE

By Erik Siegel 633d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joint Base Langley-Eustis is the latest Air Force-led installation to engage in the Conservation Law Enforcement Partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The CLEP supports security improvement and public safety while also promoting resource conservation.

“JBLE is responsible for conservation and management of natural and cultural resources existing on the installations,” said Tim Christensen, 733d Civil Engineer Squadron, Environmental Element, natural resources manager. “These responsibilities include enforcement of related federal and state laws and regulations, as well as [Air Force] installation policies.”

Christensen pointed to the applicable laws guiding the CLEP, which include the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, as well as Virginia hunting and fishing regulations, and other wildlife laws.

“DoD/AF regulations mandate compliance with such laws as well as execution of an ‘Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan’ mandated under the Sikes Act,” said Christensen. “The immediate availability of federal conservation law enforcement officers ensures that the installation community meet compliance.”

These federal conservation law enforcement officers are USFWS employees; officially referred to as Federal Wildlife Officers. The CLEO/FWOs enforce federal wildlife statutes, laws, and regulations, while also answering questions regarding recreational opportunities on military installations.

“The [USFWS CLEP/FWOs] stationed at JBLE are strictly there to protect wildlife from environmental hazards and safeguarding critical habitat for endangered species,” said Gregg Burgess, USFWS, National Wildlife Refuge System-Law Enforcement, supervisory law enforcement specialist. “They work with the state to protect other game species from illegal take and preserve legal hunting opportunities for the public.” 

Burgess indicated the CLEO/FWOs will work side-by-side with all active duty and civilian law enforcement entities from an operational perspective. Their duties will focus on conservation law enforcement while military security forces will focus on daily ‘police’ work. However, both entities are authorized to assist each other.

“JBLE once had game warden positions in…733 [Security Forces Squadron],” said Christensen. “However, resources to maintain this function were no longer available. 733 [Civil Engineer Squadron] addressed the concern and need for conservation law enforcement to [Air Force Civil Engineer Center], which was able to exercise the AF/USFWS program at JBLE.”

There will be two CLEO/FWOs who will call JBLE their station. However, their duties are not limited to law enforcement.

“It is expected that any [CLEO/FWO] will provide outreach to the installation and the community,” said Burgess. “Additionally, the officer’s conduct education during most contacts with the public. In many cases, our officers help with the initial base briefing to notify new military members of the public recreational areas and the requirements they are expected to know.”

Burgess also added such outreach/training could include such events as reading to elementary school students in classrooms, training installation personnel on wildlife laws and regulations, and participating in various community events.

“Once hired, the [CLEO/FWO] goes to [the] ‘Federal Law Enforcement Training Center’ for 17 weeks of Land Management Training,” said Burgess. “Then they go to the ‘National Conservation Training Center’ for four weeks of FWS-specific training. Finally, each officer must complete 12 weeks of ‘Field Training and Evaluation’ before becoming a fully commissioned [CLEO/FWO] for the FWS.”

According to Burgess, nearly 50% of the CLEO/FWOs are veterans of the U.S military. Additionally, while not a requirement, most CLEO/FWOs have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.

Each year following hire, a CLEO/FWO must successfully complete advanced law enforcement ‘In-Service’ training, which includes firearm proficiency qualification twice per year. Each officer must also participate in physical fitness testing and review, and a health and fitness plan. This continual education includes topics like leadership training, victim witness awareness, diversity, and inclusion, and protection of personal information.

“This partnership has been hugely successful at other installations around the country. The USAF has been a great host to the [CLEO/FWOs], and welcomed them in as part of the family,” said Burgess. “We are happy to serve the JBLE community. We strive to protect the wildlife and habitat and make the installation a safe place for staff and visitors; conserve the natural resources; and seek to exemplify excellence in public service to all.”