Fish and Game shuts Napa warden academy, says no jobs available

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Posted by . on October 21, 2003 at 14:32:14:

from a San Diego Union article
By Don Thompson

5:22 p.m. October 20, 2003

SACRAMENTO The California Department of Fish and Game said Monday it is shuttering its warden academy at Napa College because there are no jobs available even for this summer's graduates.

A two-year state hiring freeze and budget cuts are forcing the closure, though the department is considering a new joint venture someday with the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Fish and Game lost 51 vacant game warden positions to budget cuts in January, and has another $18.6 million budget cut pending before the Department of Finance, said spokesman Steve Martarano.

In addition, every employee with less than 30 months' seniority is facing layoff. That's about 150 employees in all, 45 of whom are game wardens.

The cuts would drop the department to about 225 game wardens in the field similar to 1971 levels, Martarano said.

With no money to fill the vacancies, the department is canceling the warden class that would have begun in February, and closing the academy it has operated in a classroom at the Napa community college since 1989.

"The positions they were going to move into ... were all eliminated," Martarano said. "It just doesn't make sense to have another 16 wardens and for them to have no place to go."

Of the 22 students who attended this year's academy, 16 were paid for by Fish and Game. The other six paid their own way, and also have been unable to find work.

The 28-week academy runs from February to August, and the 16 Fish and Game-sponsored graduates are completing advanced training through year's end, Martarano said. The wardens received full law enforcement training, plus additional classes in wildlife issues.

Environmental groups said Friday they are concerned about the drop in enforcement personnel. They are working with Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger's transition team in an attempt to find a way of increasing funding, perhaps by raising fees. However, fishing and hunting license fees already have been increased under this year's budget.

In the interim, the department is considering shifting some wardens who hold administrative jobs back into field enforcement, and eliminating jurisdictional boundaries to provide better law enforcement coverage where it is most needed, Martarano said.

The captain who directed the academy is being transferred to Sacramento to work with the parks department on the feasibility of operating a combined academy as early as 2005. A lieutenant who was the academy's other full-time employee also is being transferred to Sacramento, to an internal affairs unit.

The parks department raised day use and camping fees this year, but is not facing layoffs or the sort of severe budget cuts facing Fish and Game, said spokesman Steve Capps.

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