Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Your Fish And Wildlife Agency
It wasn’t easy to come up with a topic for my last column at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. I live in what sportsmen and sportswomen may aptly describe as paradise – Kentucky, home of some of the best hunting and fishing in the country. During my five years at our state’s fish and wildlife agency, it has been my pleasure to write story after story about not only these activities, but the people who pursue them. It’s a writer’s dream to have an endless array of interesting people and topics to explore – and the Kentucky outdoors provides just that. The hard part is choosing.
What I keep coming back to this morning, sitting at my desk lined with outdoor books and magazines, stacks of clay pigeons serving as bookends, a fox pelt draped over my cubicle wall, and pinned-up clippings from Kentucky newspapers, is this: There is no higher calling than to do good work for people you respect. I’d like to tell you about those people.
The next time you are out in the field, reeling in a keeper-sized bass or approaching your limit of doves, consider the fish and wildlife technician. He or she is one of the hardest-working people you will ever meet. Putting fish and wildlife habitat on the ground involves netting, tagging and releasing fish until your arms ache, sinking entire trees into lakes, spending a hot summer day on a bush hog or setting fence posts when others are enjoying air conditioning indoors. Technicians may put in 12-hour days or more during the busiest times of the year. When I see fish attractor locations on a lake map, or a new food plot on a wildlife management area, I think of all the hard work that went into making those things possible for Kentucky’s hunters and anglers.
Perhaps the most visible Kentucky Fish and Wildlife employee is the conservation officer. These men and women daily put themselves in harm’s way to enforce the laws that protect and conserve our outdoors. I can think of no other job that involves regularly and knowingly approaching people with loaded guns – sometimes with the aim of writing them a ticket. It’s a job that most often brings our officers in contact with law-abiding sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate being checked in the field. But we often forget the risk involved – a risk that most of us are not willing to take. I’m thankful to have so many dedicated officers who are.
There are plenty of others behind the scenes, too. Consider our information center – a team of customer service professionals that last year answered more than 100,000 calls, replied to more than 6,000 emails, and mailed out more than 45,000 packets of information about the Kentucky outdoors. Or our wildlife diversity program, a group of biologists that monitors species that may have been wiped off the Kentucky landscape if not for conservation efforts. There are so many pieces that go into the fish and wildlife puzzle that it would take a book to recognize all the men and women who make Kentucky such a wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors.
Employees of your fish and wildlife agency do these things for modest pay, and because they love the same things you love. Hunting, fishing and natural resource conservation are their lives and their livelihoods. They stretch your license dollars to the limit, giving you a year’s worth of world-class outdoor recreation for a $20 hunting or fishing license. And they epitomize the concept of service in a way I have been fortunate to witness. The leadership of this agency in many cases has risen through the ranks from the technician, the summer camp counselor, the biologist, to the program coordinator, the division director, the commissioner.
My career is taking me in a new direction, but my identity as a Kentuckian, a hunter, a person, is forever changed by these professionals. I am proud to have worked with them.