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News & Releases
Mountain-Prairie Region

News Release

Tribes Strengthen Wildlife Conservation Efforts Through Game & Fish Law Enforcement Officer Training

For Immediate Release

July 21, 2014

Firearms training and qualification course at Blue Creek Range. Credit: BIA
Instructors assisting during the firearms proficiency and qualification session at Blue Creek Range. Credit: BIA

To meet a unique requirement for Tribal wildlife law enforcement officers, federal agencies partnered with the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society (NAFWS) to host a week-long intensive training program. All Federal law officers are required to receive 40 hours of annual in-service training.  Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Law Enforcement policy mandates the same training requirements for Tribal law enforcement officers.  As a result, Thirty-eight Tribal conservation officers attended the instruction representing 14 Tribes, to include: Oglala Sioux Tribe, Pueblo of Jemez, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, Crow Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Spirit Lake Nation, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Three Affiliated Tribes, Navajo Nation, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Fort Belknap Tribe, Shoshone-Bannock Tribe, Mescalero Tribe, and Columbia River Inter-tribal Fisheries Commission.

"This is probably one of the first times that there were this many officers from the Southwest tribes and this added to the success of the training,” said Emerson Bullchief, Historic Preservation Officer for the Crow Tribe and a Board Director in the NAFWS. “The Society is committed to making sure tribal conservation law officers are getting the training they need for anything that they would ever encounter out there in the field for their safety."

The Tribal officer training was held in Billings, Montana, on June 9–13, 2014. The training program was led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) with the assistance of tribal instructors from Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Three Affiliated Tribes along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The Crow Tribe hosted this year’s effort while working closely with NAFWS Great Plains Region. The NAFWS provided logistical support, planning assistance and Simunition® equipment for the participants.

“Training in Indian Country has always been a need, a great need, because a lot of the other (Tribal) agencies don’t have instructors,” said Mike Kennedy, Society member and Cheyenne River Sioux Conservation officer.  “So, a lot of times we rely on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to give that instruction to us,” Kennedy added.  “NAFWS has provided funding for equipment, like where I live in Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe; they sent us to training—to be instructors—so we could train our own people.  The Society found the need was so great that we expanded it and now we train other departments.”

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This year, there were approximately 19 instructors to conduct the training sessions from the Service, BIA, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Housing and Urban Development, and the two previously mentioned Tribes.  This rigorous training was designed to meet the needs of Tribal law enforcement officers responsible for protecting trust resources and people in Indian Country. The training covered standard skill sets in areas such as defensive tactics, crime scene investigation, search and seizure, firearms proficiency, federal laws in Indian Country, wildlife field forensics, raptor identification, use of force, officer safety and awareness of drug activity.

“I have been with the training program for 12 years and it has been so rewarding for us at BIA to watch the growth in professional relationships between the Tribal and Federal Conservation Officers,” said Diane Mann-Klager, BIA Natural Resources Officer.  “The training experience is critically important with the increasing complexity and sophistication of wildlife crimes across jurisdictions, and the added responsibilities beyond wildlife law enforcement due to limited resources.  Too often, a conservation officer is the first law enforcement official at a crime scene,” she added.  “We will continue to build bridges between Tribal and Federal Officers with enhancement of the course structure to include Tribal case study scenarios next year for the protection of trust resources.”

There was both a classroom component and a two-day outdoor applied learning session where practical exercises were used to create an authentic field environment for the scenario based training. The instructors created exercises that dealt with development and documentation of crime scenes and shoot or don’t shoot Simunition® scenarios. The purpose of these scenarios was to reinforce officer safety in a real world setting—where outcomes and responses—reinforce officer actions which avoid putting themselves or their fellow officers into dangerous situations where they could be injured or killed.

Terry Thibeault, a Service Resident Agent In Charge stated, “Tribal Conservation Officers are essentially our boots on the ground when it comes to conservation law enforcement in Indian Country.”  “We strive to provide the best training we can in order to help them do their job proficiently, and most importantly safely.”

Tribal participants requested the continued support for this well-attended training. One huge benefit to the localized training is the role it has played in forging working relations between Federal law enforcement officers and Tribal officers. These relationships have led to real-world joint investigations between Tribes and the Service, which helps in the successful prosecution of offenders. Participants’ questions, interest and engagement was witnessed throughout the week. The course takes a direct and tailored approach to situations, which could be expanded throughout Indian Country, to deal with the unique issues faced by Tribal wildlife law enforcement officers on Tribal lands.

Support for this Training was provided by:

  • Native American Fish and Wildlife Society (NAFWS)
  • Department of Interior (DOI)
    • -DOI, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement and Refuges
    • -DOI, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Tribal Justice and Division of Natural Resources
  • ­­Department of Justice (DOJ), Environmental Natural Resource Division and the Montana US Attorney’s Office.

Additional photos are available in high resolution online at: http://goo.gl/VDuRSZ

– FWS –

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Office of External Affairs

Mountain-Prairie Region

134 Union Blvd

Lakewood, CO 80228


303-236-3815 FAX



Ivy Allen
Office of External Affairs
(303) 236-4574

Karen Lynch
Native American Fish and Wildlife Society

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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: July 28, 2014
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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