Florida Fish and Wildlife Release: FWC, DEP combined forces increase service in state parks
When the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) acquired additional personnel from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) last year, its staff gained new responsibilities. Now, FWC officers patrol all of Florida’s woods and waters, including its state forests and state parks.
Gov. Rick Scott said, “By combining the efforts of Florida’s environmental law enforcement, we can ensure that our state’s many visitors are safe and natural resources are protected. This efficient approach provides FWC more opportunities to serve Florida families and enhance the natural condition of our state parks and forests.”
“We have become more efficient and effective with an even broader range of skills and experience,” said Col. Jim Brown, director of the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement. “By reducing supervisors, increasing the number of officers in the field and working closely with DEP’s Florida Park Service, we have been able to increase service levels in the parks by 28 percent.”
The statistic refers to the number of activity hours in the parks in the first six months after the consolidation – July through December – compared to the same time period of 2011, when a smaller number of DEP officers was patrolling the parks alone. The consolidation of officers became official July 1, 2012.
“We are pleased with the extremely high level of service provided to our state parks and visitors by FWC law enforcement professionals,” said Donald Forgione, DEP’s Florida Park Service director. “The safety of our visitors and the environment is our top priority. With the consolidation of Florida’s environmental law enforcement divisions, we have a larger pool of officers from multiple areas of the state who are available to efficiently and effectively assist the state parks when called.”
The consolidation was recommended by the Law Enforcement Consolidation Task Force and sponsored by Rep. Rich Glorioso and Sen. Jack Latvala in a bill that the Florida Legislature approved. Gov. Rick Scott signed the consolidation bill into law. The change was projected to improve service to the public and cut costs. Though the initial savings are limited, the efficiencies created will save the state more than $3 million over the next five years and $1.28 million in recurring annual savings.
“We are already seeing benefits,” Brown said. “We look forward to continuing to enhance service and ensure that people can safely enjoy our state parks, state forests and all of Florida’s beautiful natural resources.”