Fathers on the Land
Fathers on the Land
Frank Simms IV, a wildlife officer at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina, spent most summers of his youth in the mountains of Bellingham, Wash., hunting, fishing and camping with his dad, Frank Simms III, a Service law enforcement officer. “In a few instances,” he says, “we’d make contact with some poachers. He’d make a case” - issue a ticket - “and I’d think that was the coolest thing in the world. The ‘bad guys’ get caught.”
Later, when Simms was a high school student in Louisiana, he would look out for suspected hunting scofflaws through his binoculars and radio sightings to his dad for investigation.
Simms - who protects public safety, stops poachers and enforces game regulations at his refuge - calls his Service law enforcement job “the best in the world.” Like the rest of the Refuge System’s 403 law enforcement officers, he takes wildlife protection seriously. “The main lesson I learned from my dad is to always be honest, be fair in your approach and how you deal with violators. That’s how I like to operate.”
Learning to Leave No Trace
In college, he made wildlife conservation his career. When the opportunity arose, he added law enforcement to his refuge management duties, undergoing 31 weeks of training required of all Refuge System officers. Today, as one of the Refuge System’s 120 “dual-function” officers, Jones aims to pass down his conservation ethic, just as his father did. “For me, becoming a wildlife officer is just one more way to help protect the environment, to ensure the things I enjoyed as a kid will be there for future generations, for my daughter to enjoy.”
Steve Strader, a wildlife officer at Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge and seven other refuges in Louisiana, credits his father, bird biologist Bob Strader, for instilling the conservation values that led to his career.
“I grew up hunting and fishing with my dad, mostly on national wildlife refuges in Mississippi. That’s where he first taught me about the conservation aspect of the wildlife world and our need to protect it, especially on public lands. A lot of those lands are disappearing, so the Refuge System is very important to him and to me.”
Sharing a Deep Sense of Pride
“I am a federal wildlife officer today, in large part, because I loved being with him and seeing him work when he wore his collateral duty refuge officer hat.”
But partly through his influence, he’s hoping daughter Rachel may make theirs a two-generation Service family. Rachel, a junior at South Dakota State University, grew up living on a series of refuges where her dad worked, from Mingo in Missouri to Bald Knob in Arkansas to Izembek in Alaska. She’s now a SCEP (Student Career Experience Program) intern at Long Lake Refuge in North Dakota.
Says the elder Portwood, “She understands the importance of protecting wildlife habitat. She understands that refuges are very special places, set aside for wildlife first.”