Unique team scopes out base's wildlife interests

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Steve Bauer
  • 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
Every morning at daybreak, as the sun begins its hurdle over the horizon, a group of Vandenberg's finest perform a variety of tasks unique to the typical operations of an Air Force base.

This particular group is the 30th Security Forces Squadron conservation law enforcement officers. This small, but critical, six-member team is composed of four Department of Defense civilians and two active duty members.

"Vandenberg's conservation officers are responsible for patrolling roughly 100,000 acres," said Edward Panas, the 30th SFS chief conservation law enforcement officer. "Each day, depending on the season, our conservation officers begin their day by feeding our horses at the Saddle Club or opening the gates to the beaches around the local area."

Getting around Vandenberg's vast amount of uninhabited land requires the use of varying modes of transportation. The conservation officers patrol acreage via horseback, all terrain vehicles, sport utility vehicles and foot patrols.

Vandenberg is unique to the Air Force due to the fact the base inhabits 14 endangered species. Approximately 25 to 30 acres of the base are designated for the protection of the endangered species.

"The best part of being a conservation officer is being out and about, interacting with base affiliates and civilians," said Tech. Sgt. Troy Simchak, a 30th SFS conservation law enforcement officer. "It is a job where you constantly learn new things and get your hands in a lot of different areas. The breadth of the job is so wide; we patrol the entire base and go where no one else can."

The role of Vandenberg's conservation officers is much more than that of the average game warden. They focus much of their time providing the resource and recreation protection of fish, wildlife, water resources, archaeology, environmental crime and public safety. Their job is to enforce the base's wildlife regulations and policies, which they try to do in an unobtrusive manner by providing people with adequate information to limit the amount of offenses on the base.

"Even though it can be quite frustrating at times, my favorite aspect of my job is trying to please everybody," Mr. Panas said. "I've got a wide age range of people who hunt and fish and they have been doing it different ways their entire lives. I try and find a happy medium within the confines of our base rules and encourage people to continue hunting and fishing on Vandenberg. I like the idea that I am supporting active duty members and retirees who have volunteered to give their lives for me and my family. I do my best to ensure they can have a good time out here while also being safe."

Vandenberg's hunting program allows people to hunt deer, pigs, small game and different species of birds. Deer season opens here in July for bow hunters. The season for shotgun and rifle use begins Aug. 8 through Sept. 20. An up-to-date hunting license, tags and a permit are required. Hunters can purchase permits at the Base Exchange here.

Hunting is open to active duty, dependants, retirees and DoD civilians.

Conservation officers will address any questions or concerns regarding hunting and fishing rules and regulations. For more information, call the conservation office at 606-6804. To contact Mr. Panas directly, call 605-0555.