Reflections on a Career in Conservation Law Enforcement

with Wildlife Refuge Law Enforcement Chief Jim Hjelmgren

Jim Hjelmgren 📷USFWS/Katrina Liebich
Crystal Leonetti, Alaska Native Affairs Specialist 📷USFWS/Lisa Hupp
Jim and Crystal make the necessary preparations to interview each other 📷USFWS/Katrina Liebich

How long have you been with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?

Jim: 22 years total, with 12 of those in Alaska.

What do you think people would find most surprising about your job?

Jim: The litany of personal and professional critique. It never ends in law enforcement. Everything we do is judged.

How do Alaska’s wild places sustain and invigorate you?

Jim: The greatest back-country experiences I’ve had in Alaska, included extreme fatigue and exhaustion. So many times I’ve uttered the words, “never again,” and one day back at home, I’m already planning the next excursion.

When I’m not at work I’m…

Jim: hunting, fishing, crabbing or researching more opportunities to do more of those things.

What’s your foremost concern about Alaska’s wildlife resources?

Jim: Waste of meat by non-resident trophy hunters.

What’s the greatest misconception visitors have about Alaska?

Jim: The lack of understanding of how dangerous back-country Alaska truly is.

What’s your most treasured memory regarding Alaska or your job?

Jim: Helping add smiles to faces of Alaska Natives who have dealt with hard times.

What advice would you give people who are interested in a career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?

Jim: More than your natural resource craft, learn how to communicate and build relationships with agency personnel and, even more important, the people you will serve.

What Alaskan animal is most fascinating/inspiring to you and why?

Jim: Hands down the most fascinating is the one I am looking to spot at the time. One moment a caribou, the next a bear and the next a goat. If while caribou hunting, I spot a bear, there is not much excitement seeing the bear. Hence, when I’m bear hunting and spot a caribou, the same applies. My fascination hits a 10 when I spot the animal I’m searching for.

📷 USFWS/Katrina Liebich

Stories from Alaska by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

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