Environmental Protection Officer  What They Do

Just the Facts


Insider Info

dotEnvironmental protection officers (EPOs) may go by different names, including conservation officers, game wardens, fish and wildlife officers or enforcement officers.

In many areas, their responsibilities might include tasks associated with education, prevention and law enforcement.

dotEPOs work for branches of the federal or state governments. Or they might work for federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

dotEPOs are peace officers. They investigate, interview, carry firearms, make arrests, conduct searches and serve warrants. They enforce legislation.

dotDepending on the branch and the geographic location, they may deal with issues such as hunting and fishing violations, water diversion, toxic waste, pollutants or smuggling of contraband plant and animal products.

In some cases, EPOs may be responsible for public safety issues, such as executing search and rescues or avalanche rescues.

dotPlus, EPOs make public speeches, give educational presentations to students and other interested groups, perform administrative functions and travel and consult with colleagues in other areas.

In some cases, special agents may go undercover and perform covert investigations into suspected illegal activities.

dotTimothy Santel is a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He is also president of the Federal Wildlife Officers Association. He estimates that about 200 federal special agents are doing wildlife enforcement.

"A point to remember is that the term 'environmental protection officer' is not really used in the States," he says. "In my mind, that would include conservation police officers, game wardens, special agents, environmental police officers and more. There are probably thousands of these types of jobs.

"Within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we have special agents, wildlife inspectors and refuge officers. These three positions enforce wildlife laws for the USFWS. However, the other agencies have similar positions, including the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Forest Service."

At a Glance

Look out for the Earth

  • Most people in this field deal with education, prevention and law enforcement
  • Sometimes they have to go undercover
  • A background in criminal justice or in a wildlife or biological science would be good