California Game Wardens
California’s Game Wardens are proud officers of California’s first statewide law enforcement agency. As full-time, fully-sworn peace officers, Game Wardens engage in a dangerous and complex mission every day, providing public safety and protecting California’s rich and diverse natural resources.
California roared into U.S. statehood on September 9th, 1850. By 1854, California had fish and game laws that applied to all its counties. In 1870 California’s Governor appointed three members to the “Board of Fish Commissioners”, which was the first wildlife conservation agency in the United States. In 1871, the first two Game Wardens were appointed—one in San Francisco and one in Lake Tahoe. Within only 20 years of statehood, California’s governor, legislature, and its citizens realized the value of their precious natural resources.
At the turn of the 20th century, California’s population was around 1.5 million. In 1901, California expanded and strengthened its fish and game laws and brought the total Warden force up to 50 peace officers. This represented 1 Warden for approximately every 30,000 Californians.
By 1907 there were about 2.3 million Californians and 73 Game Wardens – or 1 Warden for every 32,000 citizens. On November 9th, 1907, the Los Angeles Herald covered then-Assemblyman George Root as he and California sportsmen statewide demanded more California Game Wardens in order to protect the state’s resources from growing population.
In 1987 California had 27.78 million people and 264 Wardens, 1 Warden for every 106,000 people. As of 2014, California still had the worst per capita number of Game Wardens in any North American state or province – 264 Wardens – 1 per every 147,000 citizens.
Game Wardens are proud to continue the legacy of California's FIRST STATEWIDE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY.
Game Wardens are California’s finest resource protectors. Their vital role in the state’s resources, safety and prosperity demands much from these officers. They protect public safety, enforce recreational and commercial fishing, hunting, and trapping laws and regulations, defend California from habitat and watershed destruction, provide homeland security, and safeguard California’s precious drinking water and oceans from oil spills and pollution.
Wardens frequently patrol alone, with little or distant backup, poor communications, and confront armed suspects and constituents on a daily basis to ensure California citizens, visitors, and their precious resources, are safe.
The average Warden is responsible for approximately 700 square miles of our beautiful state. However due to limited staffing, many Wardens cover areas over 2000 square miles alone. Many miles out at sea, in the marshes of the Delta, high in the Sierra Nevada’s, deep in the coastal redwoods, all along the coastline, the vast expanse of California’s deserts, or downtown Los Angeles – Game Wardens proactively search for resource criminals and all threats to public safety across the entirety of the state.
In times past, Wardens were thought of as simply “hunting and fishing cops”, and for years they ran silent and deep. However, the roles and responsibilities of these law enforcement professionals have greatly increased and diversified. Today’s Warden is involved in a high-profile, dangerous, and meaningful battle to protect California.
CA Game Wardens' focus on public safety was again highlighted when Wildlife Officers exchanged gunfire with Christopher Dorner.
California is a leader in all things environmental.
Wardens are California’s first, best, and sometimes only line of truly “in the field” environmental protection.
How can the 'green' state demand so much from their resource protectors,
yet value their education, their dedication, and their families so little?
When Game Warden families qualify for and receive W.I.C., their ability to protect and defend California is degraded.
California Game Warden pay continues to lag almost 35% behind other high-demand CA state peace officers.
Wardens have lost many officers to local agencies who offer substantially higher pay,
and who are afforded the chance to bargain with only other peace officers.
California does not allow Game Wardens to bargain collectively in a unit
comprised solely of peace officers.
Instead Wardens and nearly 2,400 other sworn CA peace officers must bargain with
CHP dispatchers, DMV licensors, and other valuable, but non-peace officer CA state employees.
These employees are no more or no less important than Game Wardens,
but certainly do not face the threats, endure the risks, and across the state do not demand the pay of peace officers.
California's safety, wildlife, watersheds, and other natural resources are worth much more.
We need your help to continue to raise awareness and advocate for CA Game Wardens.