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Joe Manchin III, Governor

Frank Jezioro, Director


News Release : March 8, 2006


Hoy Murphy, Public Information Officer (304) 558-3381

Contact: Lt. Larry Case, Law Enforcement Section (304) 558-2784


West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Receives Firearms from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


  In the first transfer of weapons between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Refuge System and a state agency, 262 Ruger mini-14 rifles have been consigned to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources from a temporary arsenal at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown. The transfer was made at NCTC in February.


  The surplus weapons, gathered from Federal refuges throughout the United States, were themselves former U.S. Border Patrol property before they came to the Interior Department agency. Their transfer to West Virginia will permit its conservation agency to standardize its inventory of weapons among conservation officers throughout the state. A smaller number of the rifles are destined for conservation agencies in Pennsylvania , Arkansas , and South Carolina .


  The idea for the transfer began with conversations between Service Law Enforcement Officer John Starcher of nearby Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge and West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Troy Weber. The two have been involved in cases ranging from narcotics investigations to illegal trapping of a golden eagle. Because they are stationed in a rural county, Starcher said, he and Weber have come to depend on each other for back up, training and investigative assistance. “During a firearms training day we were discussing the need for a patrol rifle by the WV DNR,” Starcher said. “That is when we began the efforts of transferring the firearms.”


  After a year of review and approvals of West Virginia 's acceptance of this first-of-its-kind transfer, the rifles, bearing tags from their former Federal homes like “ Alligator River ” and “Cabeza Prieta,” were inventoried and sorted at NCTC and then distributed across the Mountain State to individual conservation districts that same day in early February.


  “This is part of a national effort to clean up our inventories in the field, collecting guns that aren't used or that can be serviced and used by state agencies,” says David Nicely, zone law enforcement officer based at Pennsylvania's Erie National Wildlife Refuge, one of three Service employees who supervised the transfer. The rifles remain Federal property, however, and must return to the General Service Administration whenever they become unserviceable and ultimately are slated for destruction. The Fish and Wildlife Service has transferred weapons to other Interior Department agencies in the past, but not to a state.


  “The rifles are part of a three-phase national weapons ‘turn in and reduction' process that has been an ongoing event since 2003,” says Nicely. “ West Virginia has a great need for these weapons and plans on putting them to use immediately. It's a ‘win-win' for both agencies – the Service can reduce its numbers of surplus firearms, while at the same time transferring them free-of-charge to a sister conservation agency that desperately needs them.”


  “DNR Law Enforcement Section did not have issued rifles for every conservation officer before these weapons were obtained,” said Col. James Fields, Chief of the Law Enforcement Section for WVDNR. “We will use these weapons as any law enforcement agency would, for officer safety, so that the officer in the field can protect himself and the public when and if confronted by an armed assailant and the sidearm weapon that the officer now carries would be insufficient. DNR Law Enforcement officers also participate in homeland security patrols, assist other law enforcement agencies, as well as doing their normal wildlife patrol duties. Conservation officers are often called upon to dispatch nuisance and injured animals, so sometimes the sidearm weapon is not sufficient for this job, and the greater range of the rifle is needed. WVDNR is deeply appreciative of this transfer from our colleagues in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

  The rifles are in the process of being distributed to West Virginia conservation officers and training will be scheduled.


WVDNR Sgt. David Trader receives a firearm from USFWS

Refuge Officer Brett Hartwig during the transfer at the

National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV

USFWS Refuge Officer Brett Hartwig helps WVDNR Sgt. Bill

Persinger load firearms into a vehicle for transport and distribution

to West Virginia conservation officers.


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