A Talk on the Wild Side.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, sometimes an object can be priceless – not in terms of dollars and cents, but for the principles it represents, and the emotions it recalls. It’s like that with law enforcement badges.
A few years ago, our museum at NCTC received a donation of old badges. One shot-up badge dates from the time of Edgar Lindgren, the first law enforcement officer in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service history killed in the line of duty. In 1922, just three weeks after taking a game warden position, Lindgren approached three men near Big Lake, Iowa, suspecting them of shooting a bittern out of season. They killed him for it.
We may never know for sure if it is Lindgren’s badge – no records exist – but what a powerful symbol that badge is. It is, of course, a shield – a representation of an officer’s commitment to protect people and wildlife. Whether it is Lindgren’s or that of another officer who came under fire, the damaged badge also embodies the risk Special Agents and Federal Wildlife officers willingly accept to protect the world’s natural resources.
As we celebrate National Police Week, I hope we all remember to thank our friends and co-workers who defend everyone’s right to enjoy the outdoors. As a former refuge law enforcement officer, I know their work is often dangerous, lonely, and unsung. Sadly, Edgar Lindgren is not the only wildlife law enforcement officer whose name appears on our Fallen Comrades Memorial, which honors employees who have made the ultimate sacrifice. I keep a replica of the damaged badge on display in my office as a constant reminder of the sacrifices our officers make.
RELATED: Midwest Region Federal Wildlife Officer of the Year Rob Hirschboeck | Northeast Region Federal Wildlife Officer of the Year John Ross
As moving as the badge is, perhaps an even more fitting tribute to the men and women of our law enforcement ranks took place recently at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota, where 48 youngsters took part in a daylong camp to learn what it takes to become a conservation officer. And if the participants of the Youth Game Warden Camp are any indication, the outdoors will be well-protected in the future. Said camp organizer and Federal Wildlife Officer Kelly Modla, the kids “come with lots of enthusiasm and questions, and just tear it up.”
An officer shows campers tools of the trade. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS
Actually, the most appropriate tribute may be from 12-year-old camper Hannah, who said: “I’ve been camping and being outside with my family since before I could walk, and I’ve been hunting for about two years now. I’d love to grow up and be a game warden and teach people how to have respect for wildlife.”
Thank you, Hannah. If you’re among the best and brightest, we will surely welcome you into our law enforcement family. And thank you, officers. I know some of the work you do appears thankless, but conservation relies on you.
-Jim Kurth, Acting Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service