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Red Shirt- Green Shirt patrols

June 26, 2020
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Agency cooperation efforts make for success

Lander - Article by: Retired USFS Ranger, Karl Brauneis
Photo above shows the author on the left and his good friend Kent Schmidlin a retired Regional Wildlife Supervisor. 

Within many regions of the old Forest Service, we enjoyed the craft of a “generalist” ranger. Every forest ranger was a firefighter and performed law enforcement duties, and we got to ride some pretty good horses to boot. 

In Wyoming, the State Game Wardens and Biologists wear the “red shirt.” While the USFS wore the “green shirt.” In the fall we paired up for what we called the “Red Shirt – Green Shirt Patrols.” The patrols presented a boundless opportunity to learn more about wildlife and the inner workings of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Wildlife officials truly serve in an exceptional outfit. The men and women I worked with remain lifelong friends, hunting partners, and rifle range enthusiasts.

Law enforcement was our focus on patrol, but we often designed forest and wildlife management projects together. The patrols provided an opportunity to share ideas one on one with other resource management professionals in the field. On one occasion Game and Fish Biologist, Bob Lanka and I stood on a rim overlooking the Middle Fork Popo Agie River. I produced a topographic map and we drew in cutting units and prescribed burn units to improve bighorn sheep habitat. When finalized, the project looked almost exactly as we had drawn it out.

Another patrol one fall morning just after some recent snow, I was with John Emmerich the local Game and Fish biologist. John is a remarkable man and knew the wildlife and their movements like the back of his hand. Patrolling in a 4-wheel drive pickup truck we found ourselves on one of the many two-track open roads in the district. We stopped at a hunter’s camp where several recently killed elk were hanging. We checked the elk, their tags, and the hunter’s licenses. A short discussion took place on where the elk were killed. We also noted an old narrow-base Willies Jeep that belonged to “grandpa” who had killed one of the hanging elk. Saying goodbye we hopped in the truck and headed up the road.

John turns and says, “Karl, did you see any rub or drag marks on grandpa’s elk?.” “No, come to think of it I didn’t” was my reply. John said “let’s drive up there. If he shot the elk where he said he did then he would be on a closed road. I am interested to see how far they drug that elk.”

We soon arrived at the closed road.  Sure enough, plain as day were the narrow wheelbase jeep tracks heading up through the fresh snow on the closed road. We got out and hiked the tracks. About ¾ of mile up the road we came to the elk gut pile. Case solved.

We drove back to the camp and I cited grandpa for the off-road travel violation. That evening we returned to town. The gossip had already beat us. A chorus reverberated through town. “The ranger and the game warden finally caught grandpa doing what he’s been doing for the last 30 years.” There was no ill-feeling. It was simply a game of hide and seek. The success of the game that day depended upon the paired Red Shirt - Green Shirt Patrol.

Little known is the fact that forest officers can enforce state wildlife regulations on the National Forest as specified by the act of 1897. We use this authority only in concurrence and at the request of the local Game and Fish. This relationship will vary by state and location. In North Idaho, the game wardens were few and far between with little support staff. The local warden asked if several of us could help by checking fishing and hunting licenses and report back to him on the radio. We did that there too.

Only once was I asked by a game warden in Wyoming to use my federal authority on a case that crossed state (Illegal Outfitting) and federal jurisdiction (Conducting Business Without a Permit). We approached and questioned the individuals involved together in Red Shirt – Green Shirt fashion. We then decided to use my federal authority for a number of reasons. 

In closing, upon retirement from the Forest Service, my Game and Fish friend, Tom Ryder insisted that I wear the red shirt. I jumped at the opportunity. I was soon working the check station outside of Lander, Wyoming to sample for Chronic Wasting disease. The amusement in expression and double-take by hunters in our community who saw me in a red shirt is memorable. We had fun and lively conversations about the switch from green to red as I checked the deer. 

There is a beauty of community in cooperation when officials and agencies work together in service to the land and citizenry. I always felt that Lander loved her forest rangers. They might not agree with Washington policy or the edicts cascading down through the system, but they understood our job locally and supported us. We gave back through community involvement in service clubs, churches, Boy Scouts, and other civic organizations. It was a time held tradition of the old Forest Service.

The Red Shirt – Green Shirt Patrols proved a benefit to both the men and women who worked together, the local citizenry and our National Forests and wildlife. For me, it was a wonderful experience. Through the cooperation and efforts of the Game and Fish and Forest Service, the program continues locally today. As a retired forest ranger I find that very reassuring.

- WGFD -

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