Tallahassee, Florida- August 10, 2012
The National Forests in Florida hosted an Appreciation Day for USDA Forest Service law enforcement and investigation officers that serve in the state’s National Forests. The celebration was held in the Supervisor’s Office here in Tallahassee, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2012.
The National Forests in Florida Leadership Team hosted the event with law enforcement officers from all three National Forests attending, which include the Apalachicola, Osceola and Ocala. Officers were treated to a full buffet luncheon with Forest Supervisor Susan Jeheber-Matthews, her staff and District Rangers from each of the forests.
Forest Service law enforcement officers are charged with protecting and assisting the public in all the National Forests throughout the country, in addition to the protection of natural resources and property within the authority and jurisdiction of the USDA Forest Service. Law enforcement is fully integrated into all National Forest System resource management programs.
“We couldn’t carry out our programs, without your presence out there,” said Matthews in her remarks to the officers.
With over 193 million acres of forests and grasslands to protect, the USDA Law Enforcement and Investigations program employs over 800 highly trained law enforcement officers nationwide. For these officers accomplishing the Forest Service law enforcement mission is a collaboration between other agency employees along with local, state and federal organizations.
Reflecting on her career, Matthews said, “When I was a ranger in Idaho and California, some of my best days were out with my law enforcement folks. It made me appreciate what they had to deal with on a daily basis.”
District Rangers from all three National Forests acknowledged the officer’s frontline efforts and their commitment to service. In addition, Kelada Bennett, the new patrol captain for the National Forests in Florida was introduced and welcomed by the Florida Leadership Team and fellow Forest Service law enforcement officers.
“I’m happy to be here in Florida with this top-notch team of law enforcement officers. I really appreciate the forest’s recognition of our efforts,” said Bennett. “It’s a great way to begin my tenure here in Tallahassee, Fla.”
Patrol Commander R. E. Harris and Assistant Special Agent Mike Donaldson from Region Eight in Atlanta, Ga., were also in attendance. Harris and Donaldson along with National Forests in Florida law enforcement officers and investigators were presented with certificates of appreciation and gifts from Forest Supervisor Matthews.
“I think it’s great that the forest as a whole can acknowledge the work that law enforcement and investigations do for Florida,” said Harris. “You know we’re the frontliners; we’re out there when no one else is out there. It meant a lot to me as commander and I’m sure it meant more for the officers here on the ground.”
As the event concluded, officers and investigators expressed their heart-felt thanks to Florida Leadership Team members for the Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.
“All I’ve got to say is that it’s just awesome to be acknowledged,” said Patrol Officer Jeff Jauschneg.