Since National Wildlife Refuges were founded 115 years ago, Refuge law enforcement has been in the hands dual-function officers. They are a force of introspective, sharp, woods and water savvy, wildlife and user-group-astute, highly-effective, multi-skilled, local enforcement officers. They have understood, modeled, believed-in, and lived their professional life for the resources, the users, and the Refuge System mission. They are part of the Refuge culture that creates compliance through engagement and shared appreciation for the resources. They set the tone for enforcement on our refuges.
The Lower Suwannee & Cedar Keys Refuges will soon lose our only law enforcement officer, with little hope of getting a replacement. The whole National Wildlife Refuge System will lose one-fifth of its law enforcement officers at the end of the year.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced on September 21 that all “dual-function” law enforcement officers will be stripped of their badges. Our own Deputy Manager Larry Woodward is a dual-function officer, which means he has law enforcement authority as well as being a manager. Kenny McCain started as dual-function and then became full-time law enforcement. They are the models of dual-function officers.
As Friends of the Refuges, we are very concerned about being without a law enforcement officer. We are equally concerned that, without dual-function officers like Larry, the culture of enforcement on remote, rural refuges like ours will change. The change will move the Refuge and its community away from shared concern for the natural resources that drive our economy and way of life. This change in law enforcement structure is bad for the Refuges, our communities, and all the people who spend time on these public lands
The Refuge is open daily from dawn to dusk.
Visitors are welcome to walk or bicycle around yellow Refuge gates.
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"Escape to the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge" video by Visit Florida