U.S. Forest Service Careers: Law Enforcement and other Protective Services

U.S. Forest Service Careers: Law Enforcement and other Protective Services Image

As a special agent with U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Law Enforcement and Investigations, Louis Medina described his career as extremely varied and that involved a lot of cross-over from his time as a metropolitan police officer. Medina’s criminal investigations ranged from surveillance of marijuana crops on U.S. Forest Service lands, arson and vandalism to theft of archaeological artifacts, timber or vehicles.

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“A day in my working life may start out in my office, then I’m in my SUV going to off-road locations, conducting witness or suspect interviews in small rural communities in the evening, and finally bedding down in a motel or even in the tent I always carry in the Bronco,” described Medina on the USDA Forest Service website (“What We Do—A Day in the Life”). “It’s the full spectrum of criminal investigative work, mostly in an outdoor setting protecting people, property, and natural resources.”

Although violent crime is a less common issue, cases of assault and even homicide or bombings do sometimes occur. (It was just over a month ago in North Carolina that U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer Jason Crisp and his K-9 partner Maros were tragically killed by murder suspect Troy David Whisnant.)

U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement & Investigations

The mission of U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement & Investigations is, “To serve people, protect natural resources and property within the authority and jurisdiction of the Forest Service.” The National Forest System lands span from Alaska, throughout continental U.S., all the way to Puerto Rico totaling 192 million acres in size.

U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers are charged with enforcing all relevant laws and regulations and to protect the people (i.e. visitors and staff) and the natural resources within National Forest System lands. Their career duties range from making arrests and testifying in court to working with officials from other law enforcement agencies, leading educational programs and functions related to wildfire, timber theft, substance use and other investigations.

U.S. Forest Service special agents are often dressed in plain clothes and perform multiple “complex criminal investigations” at the same time. These can range from theft and wildfire to illegal outfitters and assaults. Special agents travel a lot as usually there is one assigned per geographic zone.

Both U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers and special agents carry firearms.

Other U.S. Forest Service Careers

Gaining employment in law enforcement with the U.S. Forest Service is very competitive. According to its website there are less than 600 law enforcement personnel working for the agency.

However, the U.S. Forest Service also has other positions related to service and protection. For example some employment postings currently advertised on USAJobs.gov include:

  • Forestry Technicians: Several opportunities that deal with either assisting law enforcement personnel, monitoring wildlife areas for misuse, fire prevention and suppression, etc.
  • Natural Resource Specialists: Part of their duties involves working with law enforcement agencies and reporting violations of pertinent laws and regulations.
  • Dispatch Center Manager: This position involves coordinating emergency communications for wildfires, law enforcement needs and other situations.
  • Park Rangers: One of the qualification options for this educational and interpretive role is a degree in law enforcement or police science (among the list of qualifying educational backgrounds).

Working for the U.S. Forest Service is one of the above positions, for example, may help you get your foot in the door for a future law enforcement career with the agency.

Despite the competitiveness to become a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer or special agent, the agency does suggest a growing demand: “Law enforcement is essential to the effective management use, and protection of National Forest system lands and associated resources. With an increasing number of visitors to the national forests and grasslands, the need for law enforcement personnel continues to grow.

For more information on careers with the USDA Forest Service, get in touch with Human Resources at the Albuquerque Service Center.