For two weeks I've been mulling over this news story about the upcoming loss of game wardens (district wildlife managers, we call them officially in Colorado), foresters, and other outdoor professionals.
It's the first wave of Baby Boomer retirees of course--the ones who joined these agencies in the late 1960s or early 1970s and who can now retire. Retirement was even juicier for their parents, of course: my dad retired from the Forest Service in about 1971 with a full pension at age 55; and then at 65 his Army Reserve partial pension kicked in. But I digress.
The cultural issues mentioned here might be a factor. So is the higher cost of tuitition, at least here in Colorado, where Colorado State University, which produces our foresters (like Dad) and wildlife biologists, is no longer the cheap alternative to the University of Colorado. The alternative today is the community colleges, and which of them offers such programs?
Here's the article's opening paragraphs, since its link may expire soon:
FORT MORGAN - Dan Cacho walks through thigh-high weeds along the South Platte River, shiny badge on his chest, handgun on hip, watching for hunters as a Labrador retriever bounds through the brush, more interested in blazing a trail for Cacho than flushing out birds.
The self-described big-city boy is a long way from Cleveland and right in the middle of a dream come true. The 25-year-old Cacho is nearing the end of 10 months of training and will soon become one of six new district managers with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
"It's the best thing that's happened to me," Cacho said during a recent ride-along with veteran Bill Miles, whose district takes in some of the state's plains.
A declining number of people share Cacho's passion: Wildlife agencies across the country are struggling with the double-whammy of mass retirements and declining interest from young people seemingly disconnected from hunting, fishing and rural life.
The latest statistics available from the Government Accountability Office predict federal agencies will face big losses by 2007: The Interior Department will lose 61 percent of its program managers; the Forest Service will lose 49 percent of its foresters and 61 percent of its entomologists as Western forests are being ravaged by infestations of bark beetles; and the Environmental Protection Agency will lose 45 percent of its toxicologists.