Nature calls: State recruiting conservation and resource enforcement officers

  • photo courtesy A conservation and resource enforcement officer is on marine patrol as part of her duties with DOCARE.

“If you enjoy the outdoors and you enjoy nature, this is the job for you.”

Lawrence Terlep Jr., the newly minted Hawaii Island branch chief for the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Conservation Resources, was referring to the duties of a Conservation and Resources Enforcement Officer, one of the most highly sought-after civil service positions within state government.

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And the DLNR is hiring more of them.

Recruiting for new officer candidates opens Dec. 4 at midnight on the state jobs website, jobs.hawaii.gov/careers. Applications will be accepted electronically through the site. The number of applications accepted for each island is limited. The job announcements will remain open until Jan. 15, 2022, or upon the receipt of the specific number of applications stated on each job announcement, whichever comes first.

In 2019, during the last recruitment for entry-level officer positions, application limits for all islands were reached, and recruitment closed a few hours after the release of the job announcements. Interested applicants are urged to submit their applications immediately as these job announcements may close at any time.

“Our officers are expected to operate independently in remote areas, and expected to fulfill many different law enforcement roles — the most important of which, in our career field, is the protection of our natural, cultural and historic resources,” said Terlep, whose father was also a DOCARE Hawaii Island branch chief. “So, they may spend part of their day on the water, as we have (duties) in the boating community. And the second half of the day, they may find themselves atop Maunakea or Mauna Loa, doing hunting inspections.”

The job comes with full police powers, and applicants must meet the minimum qualifications and other requirements listed on the job announcement. Those include minimum experience requirements, such as possessing a valid driver’s license, having a law-abiding character, be at least 21 years old and legally able to possess firearms and ammunition.

Graduation from high school or its equivalent may fulfill one year of the general experience requirement.

Starting pay for a Conservation and Resources Enforcement Officer I $48,646 per year or $23.39 per hour.

Academy training is in Honolulu with field training to follow. DLNR expects to graduate 46 officers, with a share going to each county.

“Each island is going to get a goodly number of officers,” said DLNR spokesman Dan Dennison, who said government officials saw the need to shore up the ranks of conservation enforcers.

“I think the pandemic and a lot of the stuff we saw happen — in terms of abuse in state parks and of beaches and public lands — really raised the public’s attention, but also got the attention of the Legislature,” Dennison said. “We had great support from Rep. David Tarnas and Sen. (Lorraine) Inouye who both saw the value of … beefing up the DOCARE ranks across the state.”

“We appreciate the state Legislature and Gov. Ige’s administration for supporting DOCARE and recognizing the importance of protecting our natural resources by providing the necessary funding to hire, train and equip new officers,” said DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla.

According to Terlep, DOCARE’s Hawaii Island branch currently is “very short” on personnel.

“I don’t think I can remember a time in my career, now going on 23 years, when we were staffed enough to support this island adequately,” he said. “It’s a big island. We are larger than all the other islands combined. … So, there’s a lot of water here and a lot of forests and wild land — and very few DOCARE officers to cover all of it.

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“So whenever we can get new people, it’s a benefit to everyone, including the community. Especially the community.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.