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The question brought to us is “it has been documented that Forest Service law enforcement is not sending as many criminal referrals forward to the Department of Justice for prosecution since 2001, why would that be the case?” Law enforcement is one of the most important parts of the Forest Service organization, especially as lands get used more by growing populations.
I would ask if anyone has any ideas and/or evidence as to why this might be happening, please comment below. If you don’t feel comfortable in an open forum, please email me at terraveritas at gmail.com.
From this link to the Forest Service website:
Special Agents are criminal investigators who plan and conduct investigations concerning possible violations of criminal and administrative provisions of the Forest Service and other statues (sic) under the U.S. Code. Special agents are normally plain clothes officers who carry concealed firearms, and other defensive equipment, make arrests, carry out complex criminal investigations, present cases for prosecution to U.S. Attorneys, and prepare investigative reports. Typically there is one special agent stationed in each geographic zone. All field agents are required to travel a great deal and usually maintain a case load often to fifteen ongoing criminal investigations at one time.
In addition, criminal investigators/special agents:
- Work cooperatively with Federal, State, local and tribal law enforcement agencies
- Conduct complex criminal and civil investigations involving Drug Trafficking Organizations, domestic terrorism and claims for or against the government
- Conduct undercover and surveillance operations
- Testify in court on behalf of the government
Some examples of criminal cases are:
- Illegal outfitter and guiding
- Theft of government property
- Timber theft
- Investigations of wildland fire origins
- Manufacture and distribution of controlled substances
- Assault of Federal employees or volunteers
Criminal investigators occasionally conduct internal and civil claim investigations.
From my own position of very little knowledge, the reasons could be a) there are fewer people in the past (harder to recruit, less funding?, b) they are collaborating with others in a different way so the prosecutions don’t go through the FS, c) wildfire investigations are using more time, d) illegal marijuana grows are using more time. A regional breakdown will be helpful in testing hypotheses, but we don’t have that yet.