Ca. wardens losing war against low pay, long hours.


Mar 11, 2001
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Wardens losing war against low pay, long hours.

Tom Stienstra, San Francisco Chronicle Outdoors Writer. Thursday, August 23, 2001.

Dale Wong is turning in the badge he once figured he'd wear to his grave. Like many Department of Fish and Game wardens, he's had enough of the low pay and the extremely long hours to earn it.

"It's weird feeling that I'm going to give up my badge," said Wong, who is taking early retirement in September at 55. "I don't really want to part with it."

But Wong, who has one of the top arrest records as a game warden in the Bay Area and Delta, said he'd rather retire than continue hoping that Gov. Gray Davis will provide wardens with the same pay as officers of the California Highway Patrol. The governor rejected a similar proposal a year ago.

The pay of game wardens peaks at $42,000, from which they must pay for their pensions. In comparison, CHP officers start at $44,304, top out at $62, 880 -- and can earn as much as $71,649, with overtime and incentives. The state also pays for their pensions.

"The parity issue is a real problem," Wong said. "If parity doesn't happen, then you will see a mass exodus."

DFG Deputy Director Dirk Brazil has confirmed several times this year his concern over the future of game wardens and the DFG's ability to protect the state's fish and wildlife resources. At times, reports of violations in the field are now going unchecked.

Of the 310 game wardens in the field, Brazil said about half are expected to retire in the next two to five years, and dozens of wardens have openly said if they don't get parity, they will quit as soon as eligible for benefits.

Many also complain that they work overtime and on days off without compensation in order to catch the bad guys. Already, there are 60 unfilled positions in the state.

This year's cadet program, which trains future game wardens, showed the DFG's limited ability to fill those positions while other enforcement agencies are offering better pay. Of 40 available slots, only 17 cadets showed up. Of those 17, 14 were graduates, and of those 14, two are immediately leaving to take jobs with other agencies.

That means this year's game warden recruitment campaign, which featured DFG appearances and booths at sportsmen's expositions, netted only 12 new game wardens in a state with 33.9 million residents.

As for Wong, he said he's going stop fighting the fight.

"I'm going to live in the Delta and fish a lot," he said.

"Once I got into it, coming from State Police to be a game warden, I knew this was my last move, and I've put in 20 years at it," Wong said. "As it is, the way things are turning out, I decided I better leave now."

E-mail Tom Stienstra at

jerry d

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Mar 17, 2001
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This is a real shame.

The politicians in the richest state in the union can find ways to waste money but don't care enough about it's wildlife to provide a decent wage scale for those charged with protecting it.

All sportsmen/women should be real proud of their elected representatives.

Shame, shame, shame......


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Apr 22, 2001
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I have been looking at a career change lately. I've been interested in law enforcement since I was a kid and thought F&G would be the way to go. Then I checked into it and found out the same thing that this article states. These guys deserve the same as any other law enforcement officers(who are also underpaid) Because of this F&G will be my last resort. It's too bad the office couldn't get any better!!    Scott

hunter mike

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May 5, 2001
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Here is my $.02.  About this time last year I was doing a background investigation and physical to be a CA State Park Ranger.  It ended up that my eyes weren't good enough (too much internet probably) but anyway it was probably a blessing.  Rangers are also law enforcement and they make about 5% less than CA game wardens.  So neither one make a very good wage.  If I had gotten on, Socal would have likely been my first duty.  With starting pay about $2800 a month we probably couldn't make it.  

Even worse yet, the National Park service ranger's (who require more education than CA state park rangers)  start out at about $10.00/hr (gs4).  It is rediculous that to work for the public in a job that you love that you are basically working for free.  Nearly all government resource agency type jobs (biologist, warden, ranger, etc) are under paid.  Most of the people who have these careers are doing it because they love it and want to "give something back".  It will be great if they are eventually recognized monitarily for their efforts.

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