Hatchery Is A Hub For Agent Training

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Lost Valley Fish Hatchery staff and visiting instructors were busy training 12 new Missouri Conservation agents in fishery skills during the week of June 9 through 14. Classroom time was augmented by field expeditions where they might traverse steep, grassy creek banks at the hatchery identifying and counting dead fish and looking for what caused a “practicum” fish kill. This week was part of a six-month (1200 hours) training program conducted by the Missouri Conservation Agent Training Academy. It is required for new hire agents to prepare them for eventual placement in counties throughout the state.
The Academy is one of the programs managed by Program Supervisor, Cheryl Fey, who has been a conservation officer for 30 years. Fey is involved in providing conservation staff from around the state, who are specialists in their field, to instruct the agents. Fey was on hand all week to oversee training and take part in activities. 
“Training is held about every 18 months, or when 10 to 20 conservation agent vacancies occur in the state,” said Fey. “The new agents are hired before training and placed on the payroll. They are selected from candidates having four-year degrees in forestry, fisheries management, wildlife management, wildlife conservation, natural resources conservation law enforcement, criminal justice, agriculture, education with science or biology emphasis, or other related biological sciences or closely related natural resource subjects. Academy training takes place in different locales around Missouri and includes firearms, defensive tactics, emergency driving, and wildlife code of Missouri. Other classes include what all peace officers must know. The agents go to boat school and learn to run a boat in a lake and the Mississippi river, and they go to jet boat school in Van Buren where they learn swift water rescue, trapping, stream and river management. They also have to learn gensing rules and regulations.” (According to www.fws.gov, gensing is an endangered plant species and its roots are exported mainly Hong Kong where they are sorted, graded and shipped to Asian countries to be used in traditional Chinese and herbal medicines.)
According to https:\\mdc.mo.gov, conservation agents are local representatives of the Conservation Commission who have a broad knowledge of the Missouri Department of Conservation’s many responsibilities. Conservation agents are licensed peace officers. They enforce the rules of the Wildlife Code of Missouri and state laws on lands owned, leased or managed by the Conservation Department. Agents are expected to work many nights, most weekends and holidays, often under adverse weather conditions. Much of their work is outdoors either working alone or as part of a team, often with agents from varying divisions. Applicants must be able to learn to swim, lift a small boat, an outboard motor, or a canoe; and remove deer killed on Missouri highways. They must successfully complete a physical fitness test, psychological examination and drug test paid for by the Department.
Agents may check fishing permits, catch a violator operating an illegal net, or arrest a person using an electrical device to take fish illegally during warm weather. Hunting duties are usually performed during cold months. Their workloads are determined by the agent’s assigned county. Patrol, investigations, and stakeouts are a normal part of the job as a certain amount of administrative work. They also interact with the public by holding meetings, conducting hunter safety and ethics instruction, appearing on radio and TV, providing information at fairs and exhibits; writing newspaper articles, and providing programs for schools, clubs, and organizations.