Federal Officers Seize Over 13,600 Pounds Of Drugs On National Wildlife Refuges

Federal Wildlife Officers work in partnership with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Drug Enforcement Agency, and Tribal, state and local governments to address the flow of illegal drug trafficking and to mitigate the impacts associated with these activities. [Photos USFWS]

Federal Wildlife officers are being recognized for their efforts in 2020 that led to the seizure of 13,615 pounds of illegal narcotics on national wildlife refuges. The 2020 street value of the seizures was $43 million — 17 times more than in 2019, which was $2.5 million.

“Federal Wildlife officers successfully stopped thousands of pounds of deadly narcotics from reaching our communities this year, and they continue to serve with distinction every day in protecting national wildlife refuges,” said Rob Wallace, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. “The Trump Administration is working day in and day out to protect our citizens from illicit drugs and violence.”

The National Wildlife Refuge System , managed by the Service, is the nation’s largest network of public lands dedicated to wildlife conservation. Federal Wildlife officers who serve and protect the resources of the Refuge System provide visitors with safe access to wildlife viewing and photography, fishing and hunting activities. These officers are among the most visible and recognizable conservation professionals entrusted with safeguarding the integrity of the nation’s wildlife refuges while ensuring public safety.  They combine resource protection, traditional policing and emergency first response to protect, serve and educate the public and Service staff. This includes stopping illegal narcotics smuggling and possession on Refuge System lands.

“Under the Trump Administration, our law enforcement has been effective in protecting wildlife and habitat and making refuges safe places for staff and visitors while preventing illegal narcotics from further afflicting communities across this nation,” said Service Director Aurelia Skipwith. “I am proud of the Service’s Federal Wildlife Officers and the incredible work they are doing on the ground to combat illicit drug activities on national wildlife refuges.”

Federal Wildlife officers work in partnership with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Drug Enforcement Agency, and Tribal, state and local governments to address the flow of illegal drug trafficking and to mitigate the impacts associated with these activities.

Illegal narcotics smuggling is dangerous not only to the public, it also damages the fragile habitats that national wildlife refuges protect and includes displacing native vegetation, soil erosion and contamination as well as disturbing wildlife. In June 2020, an active marijuana grow site was discovered on a national wildlife refuge in California. Approximately 3,000 marijuana plants and 1,580 pounds of trash were removed. This year, in the southwest, Federal Wildlife Officers seized 1,050 pounds of illegal narcotics.

  2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Marijuana bundles 760.5 bundles seized* 360 bundles seized* 195
bundles
seized*
165 bundles seized* 89 bundles seized* 57 bundles seized* 951.37 lbs 12,569 lbs
Number of Marijuana Plants 117 4,749 1,717 3,233 16,744 4,757 364 12,284
Loose leaf or joint 269.18g 380.82g 268.91g 291.82g 609.37g 29,320g 1524g 1094g
Cocaine 68kg 1.76kg 0.22kg 123kg 0.17kg 1.17kg 0.003kg 592.82 lbs
Heroin 0.5g 4g 4.00 Capsules 2.5g 38.4g 2.61g 0.016g 0.004g
Methamphetamine 9.64g 39.05g 66.41kg 121g 315g 370g 0.3g 437.78 lbs
* These bundles were seized on Service lands by another agency with no recorded weights

Federal Wildlife Officers receive extensive training in proactive law enforcement practices. They have employed multiple methods of illegal narcotic interdiction including the use of Federal Wildlife Canine Officers. Federal Wildlife Canines serve as patrol partners, and they help locate people, evidence, contraband and wildlife. This July in Arizona, a Federal Wildlife Canine Officer intercepted three individuals with 61 pounds of methamphetamine on a national wildlife refuge.