VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
Comprised of nearly 100,000 acres, there is a lot of ground to cover on Vandenberg. About 70,000 of those acres consist of hunting and fishing areas. With various wildlife in the region, some of which endangered, proper protection and enforcement laws must be applied and maintained.
The vast swath of land and the many regulations are covered by the 30th Security Forces Squadron conservation law enforcement unit. With hunting as a popular interest in the area, the Conservation team is accountable for the safeguarding of a multitude of fish and wildlife.
“We’re responsible for enforcing all federal, state, and local cultural and natural resource laws here on Vandenberg,” said Wayne Moses, 30th SFS conservation law enforcement lead. “That includes the protection of endangered species and enforcing California’s hunting and fishing regulations. We have 17 hunting zones, each with a firearms-specific restriction. There are 70,000 acres of hunting area here on Vandenberg, as well as 36 miles of coastline we patrol.”
Hunters log into a kiosk at the law enforcement office upon their arrival. Once logged in, officers can track their whereabouts and patrol the respective areas, with different vehicles set aside for unique terrains.
“Before heading out and doing our patrols, we’ll look at the computers and on our kiosk systems we can actually look and see where all the hunters are located and which zones they’re in,” said Staff Sgt. Jesse Travis, 30th SFS conservation law enforcement officer. “So we’ll head out into those zones and see if we can locate hunters to ensure they’re in compliance with everything. After that, it’s pretty much patrolling everywhere and trying to hit everything that we can. We have 99,000 square acres that we patrol and so it takes a full day to hit all those areas. Some of those areas require us riding in all-terrain vehicles or Polaris Razors because the roads are a little more narrow and sometimes it’s a little faster taking them as opposed to our trucks.”
Additionally, the law enforcement group has a crucial role during launches, sweeping any areas near the launch site for potential intruders or anomalies.
“We drive every inch of this base, so we know all the backroads and points of entry and interest,” said Travis. “So with us having this knowledge, we go out there and make sure people aren’t coming onto the base to traverse restricted areas. Every time we have a launch, we’ll go out to those locations where we know there are dirt paths and narrow roads where somebody could hide out and we’ll sweep all those areas.”
Excellent execution and enforcement of these laws and regulations has led to a growth among endangered species.
“Our enforcement efforts have contributed to the growing number of the western snowy plover population on Vandenberg,” said Moses. “If it weren’t for the conservation section enforcing the beach rules, we would not see an upward trend of eggs being hatched year after year.”
Despite an abundance of responsibilities, the conservation unit successfully provides a safe setting for both hunters and wildlife alike.
“I think we serve a multi-faceted purpose here on Vandenberg,” said Travis. “There are almost 800 registered hunters on the base. We’re protecting the wildlife both in and out of the water, while providing a safe environment for the hunters to do their gaming as well. We wear a lot of hats and deal with a lot of people, but it’s all worth it.”