MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (AP) — A Mountain Home High School graduate was recently honored as one of the top wildlife officers in the nation.
Missouri Department of Conservation Agent Andy Barnes, a 1998 graduate of MHHS, was named the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' 2018 Colonel Bob Brantley Wildlife Officer of the Year in October. The Lawrence County (Missouri) conservation officer received the honor in October at SEAFWA's annual meeting in Mobile, Alabama.
SEAFWA consists of fish and wildlife management agencies in 15 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Member states include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
In addition to direct law enforcement duties, an officer is nominated for the Wildlife Officer of the Year award based on community service, outreach and education, interdepartmental cooperation and innovations that may be utilized by other officers and departments.
"Agent Barnes' efforts toward advancing the mission of the department center on high-quality law enforcement, outstanding public outreach and landowner services, and a strong work ethic focused on teamwork and cooperation," MDC Director Sara Pauley said in a news release reporting Barnes' selection as Wildlife Officer of the Year. "He is usually one of the first in the region to volunteer for special events or patrols, and his willingness to help others does not go unnoticed."
Barnes is also the Missouri Conservation Agent of the Year, an award that placed him in consideration for the SEAFWA Wildlife Officer of the Year award. Barnes is the first MDC agent to earn this state honor twice, having also been named Conservation Agent of the Year in 2015, the Baxter Bulletin reported.
"I was not expecting (to win) anything," Barnes said. "It's fairly rare to be nominated once, much less twice. It's been a good year, and I'm proud of those achievements."
Barnes has a bachelor's degree in wildlife conservation and management from Missouri State University and graduated the Agent Training Academy in 2006.
"Investigations are what most people get into this field for," Barnes said. "You want to help catch the people that are out there doing wrong. I don't mean the people who are doing something wrong because they don't know the laws — that is part of the job, too — but I'm talking about people who are out there doing blatantly illegal things."
Regulation enforcement may be a primary component of a conservation agent's job, but Barnes' Wildlife Officer of the Year resume includes more than just pursuing game violators.
His knowledge of swift-water rescue techniques and equipment has been invaluable service to both the MDC and other law enforcement agencies involved in those tasks, the MDC news release on Barnes' recognition states. Earlier this year, Barnes provided a demonstration of those skills at a four-state meeting of Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma fish and wildlife agencies.
Barnes is also involved with youth hunting, shooting and fishing events; hunter education programs and youth archery programs. He also conducts media interviews in his role as conservation officer.
"Today's conservation officers wear many hats," SEAFWA President Chuck Sykes said. "They assist other law enforcement officers with everything from search and rescue to manhunts. They are the primary face of our state agencies to the public. They mentor, educate, promote, serve and protect. Agent Barnes meets all these demands."
Information from: The Baxter Bulletin, http://www.baxterbulletin.com
An AP Member Exchange shared by the Baxter Bulletin.