Calwof is working to support the fish and wildlife officers that serve the beautiful state of California. John Nores is a retired Lieutenant that is one of the driving forces behind spreading the “Thin Green Line” message of conservationists everywhere. John is a published author and is working harder than ever to inform the public about what Wildlife Officers do and why they are so important in protecting our resources and the citizens of our society. Here’s the transcript of John’s interview with Calwof!
John, tell us a little bit about who you are.
John Nores Thanks for giving me the opportunity and anything we can do to help spread the thin green line message of what we’re doing on the conservation officer front, especially with the good folks. Calwof are doing as well. My name’s John Nores. I’m a recently retired lieutenant with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. I retired back in December of 2018. I had a really what I consider a blessed and diverse and just amazing career. In the 28 years I was a game warden, I did everything from working in patrol districts as a district patrol guy that does just about everything conventional, traditional, hunting, fishing, environmental crime, streambed alteration, pollution, commercial wildlife sales, which is a big hot button topic all over the world now here in the U.S. especially, and did all of that. And then around 2004, 2005, I went an unconventional direction as a game warden and was promoted to a lieutenant at that point in Silicon Valley. I was supervising about seven game wardens between two and a half counties. We started to get involved with the local sheriff’s office and other allied agencies on this trespass, illegal cannabis growing operation problem. Unbeknownst to us at the time, a majority of those trespass grows are run by the drug cartels out of Mexico. So the danger element, the violence element with what these criminals are involved in, how heavily armed they are, what other crimes they’re also associated with besides obtaining cannabis production for the black market. We’re talking about the human trafficking issue that’s so huge right now. Synthetic heroin, the fentanyl, the the counterfeit prescription opiates, the sex trafficking of children, gun running, an international criminal empire that’s working within the borders of the U.S. and doing some heinous damage. But specifically on the tainted cannabis problem, where we got involved as game wardens was the egregious environmental damage that these grows cause, not only from the massive amounts of water diversion and water stealing, throughout the state of California, when we form the marijuana enforcement team, which was the first specialized unit of its kind in the nation, dedicated to just doing this full time and leaving the traditional patrol element. When that team was formed in 2013, the state of California was pretty much at the middle to almost middle of the biggest drought California’s faced in over a century. When our scientists started to tabulate the amount of water that was stolen from headwaters, fishery water’s, drinking water sources, large rivers all throughout the Golden State, the mind boggling figure of 1.3 billion gallons of water stolen by cartel trespass cannabis growers. The conservative estimate between 2014 and 2015 was pretty mind boggling, especially during the state’s worst drought in the better part of a century. Ironically, now I’m getting hit by national and international media groups, all this last week on water stealer’s related to cannabis, illegal cannabis grows and how it’s affecting the drought we’re in in California right now. Fast forward not too many years later and in retirement, I’m answering the same questions. It’s kind of a deja vu that California is in a big drought. Other states are going drought heavy as well. Other countries are dealing with that. And they’re all concerned about this trespass, illegal, black market cannabis culture, largely from the criminal enterprises that are stealing all of this water. So we started to get involved then. And that was 2004, many, many years before we had a dedicated team because of the environmental, wildlife loss component that I just described on top of the water stealing that goes on with these cannabis growers. We also have EPA banned poisons and toxins that are banned in this country from being used on any type of agriculture product because they’re so deadly, they’re so toxic, and they’re still used in Third World countries and they’re actually smuggled up here from south of the border by cartel growers to put not only on the cannabis that black market consumers all over the country are consuming, but it ends up in the waterways and ends up in the soil. So we have the water loss. We have the loss of vegetation as all this habitat is cleared out to make room for these illegal cannabis grows. And then we have the element of these EPA banned toxics being just spread all over these grow sites and tainting the water and killing animals almost on contact and also deadly to human ingestion if we were to breathe this stuff. So, officers have been contaminated by it, haven’t died that we know of, fortunately, but it just really up the element of wildlife loss on kind of an exponential scale, when we realized there were, 4 to 6 thousand of these grows statewide in California, another conservative estimate back in the window when I was running our specialized unit between 2013 and 2018 and now with covid and now with the drought and now with less law enforcement presence actually in the outdoors because of the covid and the the contact threat with anybody covid positive. It’s just become more of a problem. The cartels have kind of gone on steroids and just went ballistic in our wild lands and there’s no end in sight on it right now because there’s so much black market, lucrative market for these groups to operate.
What really inspired you to follow this career path specifically? How did you get into this?
John Nores That’s a great question and it was kind of by happenstance because I have a very unconventional story of how I became a game warden that I wrote about in the introduction of my first book, A War in the Woods. I grew up hunting, fishing, hiking, all of that from a conservation oriented family, from my, my grandfather’s lineage down to my dad, my uncles and down to us as kids. But I never met a game warden growing up hunting and fishing, which was really strange. I was certified through Hunter Education and got my Hunter safety certificate and my first hunting license at nine years old with my dad’s help, and started hunting waterfowl with him. He was a champion trap and skeet shooter in California, was a state champion, and was also a backup Olympian shooter for the shotgun sports back in the day. I had a lineage of firearms use and target shooting, as well as hunting all aspects and the conservation model from big game to waterfowl to Predators, you name it. So I started hunting very early and I got to hunt all over California and up in the northwest where my family ultimately settled in Montana. I never met a game warden though, so I was going the engineering route at San Jose State and the Silicon Valley where I was born and raised because it was a good, lucrative career. It involved design and engineering, I was a drafter in a drawer. I like the idea of working outdoors and working with dams and hydrology and things like that. I was actually a year into that program in the civil engineering program at San Jose State when I met a game warden in the Henry Coe backcountry on a winter hike over the Christmas break. He was actually checking on a couple of dumb teenagers that were in college and hiking when no one’s normally in the park. We were soaking wet and there had been a big storm the night before. We had a packhorse, bringing our stuff in. Here we are, trying to dry everything out from hiking a night in the rain on our first night. He thought we were poaching animals because nobody in their right mind would be backpacking Coe Park in the middle of a storm. When he realized we were just a couple of dumb college kids doing the outdoor experience, I started to pick his brain because I realized he wasn’t the park rangers I had seen in the park before. Something was different about him and I ended up keeping him in our camp for about two hours. He was generously answering all my questions when I’m sure he had many places to be and I was just blown away by what his job was. I was blown away by the fact that he was in his four wheel drive truck fifteen miles from the nearest person from the nearest locked gate in 100,000 acre second largest state park in the state of California, one of the most pristine with no backup and just kind of on that steel horse he was riding, to go patrol his massive expanse of the beautiful California backcountry. And when I realized he was a law enforcement but for wildlife, but did it all and he was kind of self-reliant and ran on his own a lot, that was kind of my personality anyway. I was absolutely enthralled by it. So that whole trip for a week in the woods of backpacking and my brother, who was one of my closest friends and Baja Race teammates to this day, said something has really changed in you since that game warden contacted us. I knew that as soon as I got out of the woods, I was going to change my major and pursue it. And I did. I got out before Christmas and two days after Christmas, I was at the Criminal Justice Department at San Jose State looking to change my major. So in the spring semester, I knew that’s what I wanted to do and did not waste another second somewhere else that I wasn’t passionate about and just went down that road until I got picked up and got into the academy in 1992 at Napa Valley College and got sent to Riverside County down in Temecula, Lake Elsinore for my first assignment and just hit the ground running. And it was a blur. We talked to Nancy Foley on our podcast when she was a guest on it recently. I’ve worked with Nancy forever and we’ve been partners and friends for a long time. And I often tell her that, you know, 28 years feels like 10. It went by so fast, because it was so dynamic and so fun. And she feels the same way. We get to the end of our careers and just go, “wow, what just happened?” I mean, that was a blink. And there’s been a pay parity issue with game wardens as a whole, conservation officers nationally. And certainly the supervisors in California just recently got a very legitimate and well-deserved and long overdue pay parity raise. But the bottom line is we never got into this profession for the money. We didn’t get into this profession for the fringe benefits. We got into it because we love wildlife and we love the outdoors and we love the people of California or whatever state. We love Americans, we love the great outdoors in America, and that’s what makes this job so amazing. And now in retirement, I’m just as busy, if not busier, than I was running our unit and being a game warden, because there’s been so much desire to have more outreach and attention and focus on this profession and what the thin green line means to all Americans. Now, that goes so far outside of just conservation officer work or hunting and fishing. It’s everybody that loves the outdoors. It’s the field to table self-sustaining mindset that that Americans as a whole, that might would not have been into hunting and fishing or even anti-gun or not into the firearms sports. All of a sudden we go through a covid pandemic where the supply chain might get cut any minute.We’ve got people from every demographic, every political affiliation saying I need to be more self-sustaining and I need to get really comfortable in the outdoors. And we saw an upsurge of that, through the covid realm. My co-host, retired Lieutenant Wayne Saunders, out in New Hampshire of our wardens watching her Fingering Lane podcast when we were starting the Thin Green Line podcast, we were having guests talking about just that survivalist conservation officers, people in leadership roles to deal with the covid threat, other chiefs from other conservation agencies all over the country that we’re having to deal with, a surge of nonresidents and residents suddenly hitting their streams and rivers suddenly in their back country wanting to hunt. And do you know, sustenance hunting because we just needed to get out of the pandemic and the lockdown, breathe fresh air, enjoy the outdoors. So with every horrible negative, I try to look at the upside and the potential positive. That was a positive for conservation as a whole, a 30 to 40 percent increase overnight within April and May of last year in hunting license sales and hunter safety participation, gun sales, gun purchases, people wanting to actively be skilled in the hunting conservation sports that would not necessarily or hadn’t previously been involved or had an interest in that. So this thin green line lifestyle or ethos, if you will, that we all swear by on the game warden front is something that’s really growing in popularity and it’s growing in familiarity. It’s really cool to see, and now one of the biggest jobs we can do on the game or in front or on the Department of Fish and Wildlife front in California, my alma mater, and certainly what Calwof and our Wildlife Officers Foundation, are doing to help and fill in the cracks in the blanks that we can’t do in the field. It’s never been more important than right now, never been more important than right now, and it’s never been more popular. So with projects that the foundation is doing to support our efforts in the field and to send the message, the outreach and education I can do now nationally without any type of restrictions at the state level, it’s a much bigger issue and it’s much more, I think, intensified right now on a national and international scale that even just in my old state of California and that’s a real privilege and honor to be part of the thin green line message and continue to propagate it as far as we can.
“Fill and flow mindset.” You got to be able to handle anything, think on the fly, act on the fly, and typically work in a stressful or very unsafe environment to solve a crime, to protect the public or protect our wildlife without all the resources you need, without backup or other people to help you in really arduous or uncomfortable environmental conditions. So we like to say game wardens have to make do with what they have where they’re at in the moment. I think that’s what makes game wardens so professional and so versatile.
— John Nores | Retired Lieutenant with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
You say you retired in 2018?
John Nores Yeah. The very end of 2018. I think December 7th actually was my last day officially when I had my send off and my retirement send off with our sniper unit and our met team.
I think that if there’s anything that stands out, it’s the passion for the wildlife and the outdoors – you mentioned that you retired and now you’re working just as much, if not more. Probably not because you have to, but because you want to. Going back to your time as a game warden, what was the most memorable day that you had?
John Nores You know, they’re not all good memorable days. They can be bad. I mean, I’ve had hundreds, if not thousands of days that stand out. They were from the traditional patrol days with good partners and doing hunting and fishing enforcement, and going right back into Coe Park as an example and catching a deer poacher, spotlighting deer at night with the deer decoy operation or a guy taking too many deer, not tagging a deer, your little things like that to work in my home area where I met that game warden, where I learned to backpack, where I really fell in love with the outdoors. In my old hometown of the Silicon Valley which those foothills in the Silicon Valley just called me all the time. I’m in California a lot right now. Still a nonresident in California, but I’m still back in my old stomping grounds, if you will, and loving everything that California has and including, keeping an eye out in those backcountry areas, I still get to go. So moments like that are really special. I can’t think of any one particular incident, I can definitely think of one incident that wasn’t necessarily it wasn’t positive. There was a positive outcome, thankfully, but it was the most pivotal for me personally. It’s changed the perception of a lot of game wardens that there was a very heinously dangerous, environmental criminal out there called the drug cartel grower or anybody related to the criminal cartel groups. And August 5th of 2005 is one of those days that probably stands out the most. Simply because that was the day that myself and two of the game wardens, one worked for me, a squad mate, and then another game warden from San Mateo County, that’s when we were helping the sheriff’s office, the Santa Clara County, their marijuana eradication team, and we were in the Sierra Azul, open space authority, property, remote public property, but literally in eyesight of Cisco and eBay and Facebook and the headquarters of Silicon Valley were below us and not very far less than a mile. And that was the first time that we had ever got into an ambush situation with armed growers during harvest time and were actually attacked to the point where my partner was shot through both legs by an AK 47 derivative that was bleeding out of four holes, two in each leg. We had to wait three hours, three agonizing hours for an air rescue because he couldn’t hike out and we certainly couldn’t carry him out. That was the first gunfight I was involved in where I had to return fire on a suspect that shot and almost killed my partner and also the sheriff’s deputies that we were working with who were also engaged in a firefight with that and other suspects that saved my life and the life of other game wardens that day by, neutralizing threats that were aimed at doing permanent harm to us so that eight or ten second ordeal of three of us involved in a gunfight and our our partner getting shot – that was a life changer. That was a career changer. That was a frame of reference, kind of a mindset changer of what we are up against on the wildlife officer front. I don’t think there’s a more diverse job requirement than being a game warden. And to be a really good one, you have to be adaptable. You have what we call in our Met team, our specialized unit called “fill and flow mindset.” You got to be able to handle anything, think on the fly, act on the fly, and typically work in a stressful or very unsafe environment to solve a crime, to protect the public or protect our wildlife without all the resources you need, without backup or other people to help you in really arduous or uncomfortable environmental conditions. So we like to say game wardens have to make do with what they have where they’re at in the moment. I think that’s what makes game wardens so professional and so versatile. I spent the latter part, especially if not most of my operational career, and now certainly in retirement on the on the national and international outreach circuit, if you will, really telling the stories of the diversity and the legitimacy and the professionalism of what the thin green line of conservation officers, not only in California but all over the U.S. and in other parts of the world are doing. There was a time when I started my career the game wardens might not have been taken seriously, as you know, really professional, capable law enforcement officers. They might not have been held in as high esteem as an FBI agent, a county sheriff, a police officer, a federal agent, an LEO for Forest Service or say BLM or something like that. That was certainly not with the agencies we worked with, but just from public perception, and that was something that I think when after we had that first gunfight and after we took on and continued to stay in the fight, largely because of the efforts and the belief and faith we had from Chief Nancy Foley at the time we stayed in it and we continued to immerse with the sheriff’s office. And we continue to work with the the CAMP program, the Committee Against Marijuana Planting, helicopter unit, allied agency, summertime task force to eradicate and try to take out these tainted black market marijuana plants that weren’t only an environmental eyesore, an environmental destroyer, but they were also a poison product that are going to an unsuspecting black market. Especially in a regulated state like California, where our whole point is we’re selling cannabis and promoting it legally now, but doing so in an organic, safe way. Certainly this stuff (black market) is not safe. So when we started to go that direction and make it more of a focus, it eventually led up to, you know, the pure blessing of the opportunity to develop and lead the marijuana enforcement team in 2013. I think we helped increase the legitimacy of game wardens everywhere by showing the diversity of what we do and not only the traditional patrol function, but also the special operations function, where now you’ve got a dedicated team with some of the best canines in the country, you know, small unit tactics, sniper units, helicopter units, doing everything that a domestic SWAT team or a military special operations unit would do, except they’re doing it under law enforcement rules of engagement, under protocol we do in the state of California and doing it within American borders inside California and in the Silicon Valley foothills. And when that story gets told on a podcast or any type of visual medium that we might do, it kind of blows the public’s mind that game wardens are involved in that stuff, or that we have covert units that deal just in wildlife trafficking. They deal just in, you know, illegal commercialization of wildlife and the effort and the professionalism and the ability to think on your feet and be so effective in an undercover capacity as an example and doing a commercial fishery and being a marine patrol expert up to 100 miles off our coastline. You look at all the jobs we do, not only in California, but now nationally, as I work with other conservation agency groups all over the country, especially on our Wardens Watch podcast – I still pinch myself that we do the job we do and that we do it so well and we do it with so little support. And it’s just like the public’s just starting to catch up with that. Outreach and education was thankfully about a 25 to 30 percent time requirement of my job when I was retired from running the marijuana enforcement team to to send the message and not only for special operations of what we were doing on MET, but what we were doing as game wardens as a whole because of if we’re not telling this story, if we’re not getting it out to the masses, nobody’s noticing. As you know, there are so many hot ticket hot button items right now in the news every day. We got the border crisis with a new policy there. We have divisiveness politically. But one thing I found when it comes to the thin green line, it doesn’t matter where we sit politically. It doesn’t matter how thick our walls are up against each other. If we’re going through turbulent times, in America, it doesn’t matter what’s happening on the border internally or what’s happening abroad. We all agree we don’t want to see our wildlife, wetlands and waterways destroyed. We don’t want to drink poisoned water. We don’t want our kids and grandkids never to see a steelhead trout or a black tailed deer or, you know, the protected mountain lion in California, let’s say. That’s one thing we can all kind of agree on. I found that the way I think we make the biggest dent on the public eye is you do the job that stays in favor of everybody, that is a no brainer. You protect wildlife and you protect public safety in that process. It’s a law enforcement job that is a win win on every level. I noticed that with everything from the legitimate cannabis industry that we’re starting to support and see what we were doing on the marijuana enforcement team front against the drug trafficking organizations, the cartel based trespass growers. We have the support of and we still do of the legitimate cannabis industry in California. We have the support of anybody that’s anti cannabis, anybody that sits on the other side of the political fence, absolutely into and supporting the job we do because it benefits everybody. Nobody wants to see any type of trespass invader, decimating all these resources that we need and being very dangerous to the public in the process and very threatening. So that’s a big part of what we need to do and it’s a big part of what I’m continuing to do and I’m just super grateful to be able to still do it and go back and train with my teammates or talk to the game wardens throughout California and other states. We’re all cut from the same cloth. We’re all just one big, thin, green line family and it’s a good place to be. But we are not out of the woods. The stuff we deal with and legitimacy of what we do will literally get forgotten in a second with all the different news bits that are coming at us. We talk about the social media age. You know, I’ve been immersed in social media since retirement. It’s kind of a necessary evil, if you will. I’m not a big fan of it, but it is very necessary because that’s the way everybody is getting their data in real time with very short attention spans. So if we aren’t doing things like we’re doing through Calwof and getting all those good soundbites out and showing for recruitment, retention, hiring, for diversity, for outreach and education of what California game wardens are doing, what game wardens as a whole are doing, then we’re dropping the ball because someone is going to take that, five to 10 to 20 to 60 second sound bite opportunity. That’s what’s going to be focused on if we’re not in the forefront of that. So to continue to grow, to continue to thrive and to continue to do the best job possible in the state of California, as an example, in the wildlife protection front, we have to be out there telling our story and we have to get the support of everybody. I think we’re doing a much better job of that now, largely with the efforts of our Wildlife Officers Foundation helping out than we ever have in the past.
What is one thing that you wish that the general public knew about the men and women of the thin green line?
John Nores It would be, understand that everybody that makes it through the academy and stays with the job and have a long tenure at doing the job, they have an innate passion, an innate dedication and an innate desire to overachieve to absolutely do the best they can to protect our wildlife, wild lands and waterways throughout not just California, but the nation, and to protect the public, because we wouldn’t be here doing this job if it wasn’t for that. If you don’t absolutely love it, you’re not really going to be a good game warden to start with. You’re really not going to be effective because you’re just not going to stay motivated out there. Our game wardens in California, as an example, are those people. We’re a small but mighty force, kind of like the Spartans. Right? You think of the 300 and you heard from Nancy Foley and other people within our agency that our numbers on any given day are 400 or 500 game wardens. You look at the state of California and the demographic of all the challenges out there, it’s mind blowing that we are only at 400 or 500 game wardens. But you know what? We’re a small, mighty force. Everybody that’s out there doing the job right now, especially with the challenges that have happened now in this post pandemic world, if you will, my hat’s off to them. Utmost respect, love and admiration, because they’re doing a great job and they’re doing a lot with very little. We continue to grow and progress. I think of states like Florida, we just had a special operations group captain friend of mine on our Wardens Watch podcast the other day in Florida, as big as they are with everything they’ve got to deal with there, I think 900 game wardens. But you look at the size of Florida and their challenges and they’re as understaffed as we are in a relative comparison. So in a nutshell, I would say that if you see a game warden out there that’s been doing the job for more than a couple of years, they’re doing some great work and they are dedicated on every level because they’re not doing it for the money. They’re not doing it for fame. They’re not doing it for the great side benefits and incentives and any of that, that the private sector corporate world has. They’re doing it strictly for the love of their state’s wildlife and public safety.
What would you say were the biggest challenges when you were at the department versus the challenges that the department faces today?
John Nores I think for me it was just progressive change. I was always the kind of guy that I got into being an instructor and a teacher and a mentor very early in my career. It was kind of an organic morph into being a firearms instructor in defensive tactics and field training officer and things like that. But on top of that, I always see where things I think can improve, where our mission can be executed in a more progressive way with the changing demographic of the public we serve or the changing demographic of the environmental threats we encounter and have to combat. So I was one of those guys that was kind of a new program person. Nancy called me her idea guy. I would overwhelm her with new ideas. In the tactical age especially, that was something that we just weren’t doing fast enough unfortunately. There was, again, that traditional mindset and stereotype, the game wardens, “what are they doing on drug raids, in a cannabis raid?” “Why isn’t the DEA headlining that, why is fish and game with them?” “Why are they with the sheriff’s office?” “Why are they doing some of this offshore stuff?” “Why isn’t that left to the Coast Guard?” Just that mindset and mentality and when you look at black market wildlife sales that are responsible, the commercial desire to have certain wildlife species all over the globe are driving certain species worldwide to extinction or to threaten endangered status. You look at that, the black market money involved is second only to the narcotics trade worldwide. Sometimes what even meets it or exceeds it, are wildlife crimes. That’s why it’s so important that game wardens and conservation officers and conservation agencies stay as progressive as they can with the best investigative tools, the best resources, the best technology, the best equipment and the ability to reach out anywhere they need to go like some of our federal agencies do, or international law enforcement, allied agencies. The public, especially in today’s age, is starting to tune in, I think, and realize that wildlife crimes are a lot more serious and a lot more impacting on our public as a whole. Even if you are an outdoor person, even if you don’t hunt and fish, even if you’re not a consumptive user of harvesting meat. The bottom line is when wildlife is destroyed, the environment as a whole is destroyed, water is polluted, our earth is destroyed, and pretty soon you have a problem where you’re talking about the damage and or destruction eventually of a planet, regardless of what you do in the conservation world, lifestyle or not. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges we have. What we need to do moving forward is game wardens need to be on the forefront, just like federal agencies, federal officers, traditional crime detectives, whatever the case may be. And we’re getting there. We really are. When the marijuana enforcement team is formed up in 2013, we took all that tactical and equipment and training knowledge that we had from moonlighting with other agencies and being sponges to actually developing our first unit of its type in a game or an agency and really being at the top of the spear when it came to capabilities, training, equipment, administrative support, outreach, and I think mission effectiveness. That’s been one of the coolest things to be able to convey and share with other states and also with other state agencies outside of a fish and game conservation agency. As I help other states build similar teams because they have a real officer safety and a real, you know, public safety, protection and wildlife protection need as these cartels continue to ramp up and other states and do so many other crimes that are environmental based or not so much, but they’re public safety based. It’s just one big, very aggressive, very dangerous organization that our game wardens are coming up against in every State of the Union right now in all 50 states in one way or another. So that’s where we got to go and that’s where we’ve been going. California, honestly, and in working with pretty much all 50 states, conservation agencies now and hearing their stories or working together at convention functions and just sharing notes, we’re doing it everywhere we can. Certainly some state agencies are far less equipped and just by design of what their resources are, maybe less progressive. But we have a lot of stand out agencies that are on the forefront, and California is right there at the tip of the spear and not only in special operations, tactical work like our marijuana enforcement team, but all those other things we mentioned, commercial offshore marine protection, wildlife trafficking, traditional patrol, environmental crime, Internet crime. I mean, we do it all and I think we do it really, really well. That’s been the last 10 years. The time frame and the learning curve has been exponential in the last 10 and especially 5 years of how fast and progressive and dynamic we’ve had to shift to be effective. We’re not backing down. It’s good to see all of it. It’s been a real treat and a real blessing and honor to be part of this journey and to work with great game wardens in California that are family forever and to make new family, friends and other states that it’s really blossomed since retirement. But the bottom line is, I never stray far from my roots, California is still home. California is my alma mater that I feel so passionate about still protecting. Honestly, I talk up and brag about California game wardens all the time across the country when I’m working with other states, because it’s a real treat to be in a position where we went through a lot of growing pains, made some progressive jumps, and now to work with other state agencies that are just kind of going, “oh, what do we do next? We have this problem. We don’t have a lot of resources. We’re kind of overwhelmed.” And I go, “dejavu, I felt the same way you did!” Back in 04, 05 and our first really violent encounters on the cartel trespass grow front. It took us a decade later almost to get to the point where we had built the unit we needed to build. But we made a lot of mistakes along the way. We call it “failing forward.” You know, we make mistakes, but we learn from them, right? We take a couple steps back, but we try to make big leaps forward. One of the biggest things we need to do throughout the nation is share among all of us on the conservation thin green line front. Be willing to give other states information and not hold back so we can save them the growing pains that we did in a very progressive agency like California Department of Fish and Wildlife or Florida’s agency, which is very, very progressive. I hear their stories of the struggles they went through and thier baby steps when they built their SOG unit and other specialized units to handle new threats that Florida was facing environmentally. We need to work together. We need to be one unified front. But my pride sits with the home boys and girls, so to speak. And that’s certainly with my my game warden family in California
John, we don’t have any more questions and we appreciate everything that you just shared. Is there anything else that you’d like to share as it pertains to the thin green line, wildlife officers, game wardens, California, the environment?
John Nores I think one thing I’d like to reiterate, and we didn’t cover it because we were on so many good tangents, but the succession and paying it forward to our next generation of thin green liners. And when I say thin green liner’s, I’m not just talking about wildlife officers. You know, I remember when I was on Joe Rogan’s podcast and Joe and I were talking about the Thin Green Line and what that really meant and he being a bowhunter and a consumptive user and loving the outdoors and having the reach, he does, you know, in a non-law enforcement focus circle, that was a real great opportunity. When Joe Rogan himself said, “Hey, man, I’m on the thin green line, I am the green line with you” to have a brother like that say that and really get it and empathize with game wardens on everything from the intensity of the job, the professionalism of the job. Up until that podcast, honestly, he didn’t really know the depth of what we did. I’m not going to put words in Joe’s mouth, but maybe he didn’t take us as seriously. Then he heard the story and then he heard about what we had encountered and he heard some other pretty what I call “high speed, low drag” stories of game wardens in California and other states. Now, still being a civilian, to say something like, “I’m part of the thin green line,” that’s the message and that’s the mantra and that’s the internal identification we want from everybody in the public. We are seeing it through covid – we’re seeing more people out in the outdoors just breathing fresh air to get their mental health right from being cooped up in lockdown. We’re seeing more hunters, more angler’s. Those are eyes and ears. They’re all part of the thin green line of protecting wildlife because look how few game wardens we have in California. If I didn’t have little satellite eyes and ears out there in the civilian world turning poachers in, writing down license plates, taking videotape, making key observations to stop a poaching crime. We don’t make good cases. We don’t make a dent. That’s what Joe was getting in on during our time together on his podcast was, “hey, man, let’s blow this up.” That’s the message I’ve got, is we need to blow it up nationally. We need to get people vetted as thin green liners, even though they’re not law enforcement and be passionately protective of our wildlife resources and at the same time pass that tradition down to our children. We’ve seen in California like we have in other urban states, less and less consumptive users, less and less people doing those conservation sports. So less kids are getting exposed to the joy of a sunrise on a duck club in October on a duck open or waterfall open or let’s say, or any type of outdoor experience. We can pass that tradition down and we can influence and mentor and promote the career with our youth or promote at least the awareness to be protective and aware and supportive of game wardens at the earliest age. We need to do that because that’s where we’re behind the curveball. When we talk about progression, and I’ll call it thin green line progressiveness for lack of a better statement, we cannot take that lightly. We need to put so much effort into our kids and outreach and education and motivate and recruit for the future. I know we’re doing it and we’re trying to do it. I know I do it every day. I know the foundation is working to do that with the scholarship program, with PSAs, with things like what we’re doing today to and share some stuff that hopefully will influence and motivate and inspire somebody like me, when I was a college kid going totally the wrong direction, never met a game warden, never saw any outreach. I never saw any commercials. And all of a sudden by the good graces, I luckily ran into one. Well, I’d like that not to be an issue, would be cool to see it, you know, blowing up the iPhone or whatever. And, you know, you’ve seen on social media to a level where it’s kind of that tick tock in your face. It’s that Instagram in your face, because that’s how we’re going to get progressively to our next generation. It would be a travesty to see anything but.