2 years ago

Alabama’s fallen conservation officers memorialized — Dave Rainer

Governor Kay Ivey addresses visitors in front of the memorial Conservation Officers wall
(Outdoor Alabama)

What started as an idea to honor the greatest sacrifice a conservation enforcement officer can make blossomed into a capacity-crowd commemoration of 12 game wardens who gave their lives in the line of duty during the 110-year history of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

Governor Kay Ivey, Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship and Matt Weathers, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division Enforcement Chief, shared their appreciation for the officers’ sacrifices as DCNR celebrated its birthday.

Weathers said when he became head of Enforcement a year ago, one of his priorities was to come up with some way to honor the officers who have lost their lives on duty.

“This is a long overdue honor of your friends, family and coworkers,” Weathers told the crowd that filled the halls on the fifth floor of the Folsom Building in Montgomery. “I’m overjoyed to see this turnout.

“The first thing on my list was to honor the men who had given all they had so that the state could continue to enjoy the natural-resource wealth it has, to protect it from the rampant commercialization that has persisted.”

Weathers said he considered several options to honor the officers, including a statue or plaques, but soon realized portraits would be the best option.

“I couldn’t stand the thought of speaking to you without having these guys looking over my shoulder,” he said. “When this is all over, I think we’ll all agree we couldn’t imagine having this dedication in any other location.”

Weathers said he came to understand what family meant when he joined WFF two decades ago after serving as a police officer for several years.

“It was a lifelong, childhood dream to be a game warden,” he said. “I thought I knew what a work family was about, what having brothers and sisters I would die for was about. When I got to Game and Fish, which is what we called it in those days, I realized there was a deeper meaning to family within this agency. As a young officer, not really knowing what I was doing, that I could pick up a radio or telephone at 3 o’clock in the morning and could call an officer in Limestone County or in Baldwin County. They would get out of bed and do anything it took to get me the information to get the help I needed.

“I had found a home. I had found people that I may not ever see or see them on a day-to-day basis who would go to bat for me and get me through any situation. It’s family.”

Weathers also said the loved ones and friends of those who died in the line of duty would always be members of the Conservation family.

“Their names are forever etched on the history of this organization and will be forever,” he said. “To the families, thank you for giving those men to us. They missed Little League games. They missed birthdays and school functions. It’s part of the job. Thank you for giving them to us. They serve a goal, a mission, that is greater than any one person.”

Governor Ivey read the names of the men who are memorialized on the WFF wall. They are: George S. Wilson, 1922, Montgomery County; Bart Cauley, 1932, Baldwin County; Vernon W. Wilson, 1951, Randolph County; Lloyd C. Hays, 1964, Morgan County; John Roy Beam, 1976, Marshall County; Frank Stewart Jr., 1978, Escambia County; Cecil Craig Chatman, 1982, Lowndes County; Grady R. Jackson, 1984, Pike County; James C. Vines, 1985, Greene County; Jimmy D. Hutto, 2002, Fayette County; James Lance Horner Jr., 2003, Clarke County; and Nathan B. Mims, 2008, Chilton County.

“I’m honored to be with you as we celebrate the history of the Department of Conservation and the 110 years since it was formed,” Governor Ivey said. “We’re also celebrating the folks who continue to work today to keep our state beautiful and our wildlife healthy and protected. The men and women of this Department do a great service for the people of Alabama, and we want to thank you for your good service. All of us in state government have the same goal. We want to work hard to make our state better for not only now but also future generations.”

Governor Ivey recalled the history of the Department of Conservation since it was formed in the Legislature by resolution from Representative John Wallace, who went on to become Conservation’s first commissioner. Commissioner Wallace appointed a game warden for each of Alabama’s 67 counties.

“From its beginning, the Department has been committed to protecting and conserving wildlife and the natural beauty for our state and generations to come to enjoy,” she said. “As citizens of Alabama the beautiful, it is our job to help keep it that way.

“From the very beginning, God told mankind to take care of the earth. And with the efforts of the men and women who work in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, you are helping us fulfill that responsibility. This state is so very special. We are proud to live here. We call it home. We are grateful for you protecting what God has given us.”

In addition to celebrating the anniversary of the Department, Governor Ivey said it was her honor to join in the dedication of the wall memorializing the sacrifice of the 12 men who gave their lives in the line of duty.

“With this salute to these people, we are reminded of the truth we all know but rarely talk about,” Governor Ivey said. “The truth is every day members of law enforcement put their lives on the line to serve Alabama and protect us, including game wardens and other officers who work in Conservation.

“Today we honor the legacy of those who have given their lives in service to this great state. We gather in solemn accord to acknowledge that freedom in a free society is not free. We’re reminded of the high price some are called to give in their service on behalf of their fellow man. As Alabamians and Americans, it’s important we honor not only this sacrifice but the daily sacrifice of these men and women who serve.”

Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship thanked WFF Director Chuck Sykes, the WFF Enforcement Section and the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association for the support that made the wall possible.

“I’m proud to be Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,” Blankenship said. “I enjoy getting to work with such good people every day that are out there protecting our natural resources to make sure our way of life here in Alabama continues. We have a lot of people who respond to the laws of this state and the things we do. But there are some people who don’t, which makes the Department of Conservation necessary.”

Blankenship said during his early career as an enforcement officer with the Marine Resources Division, he issued one individual multiple citations for the same infraction.

“I asked him why he continued to flaunt the laws,” he said. “He told me, ‘They didn’t save me any dinosaurs, and I’m not planning on saving them any speckled trout.’ That is the attitude of a small percentage of the people we deal with.”

Blankenship said the first conservation laws in Alabama were implemented in Mobile County in the mid-1800s to regulate oyster harvest. In 1907, legislation was passed that established the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“Our department is necessary because of those people who break the laws and to ensure we have game and fish throughout our state for us, our families and future generations,” Blankenship said. “We need our biologists, who assess the populations and recommend seasons and bag limits, and enforcement officers who ensure those regulations are followed. Without enforcement, a certain element would never limit themselves in the taking of the resources. It’s called ‘tragedy of the commons.’ When there is a common resource, some people won’t limit themselves. They want to take what they feel is their fair share or more than their share.

“If we do that, we’ll end up like we were in the late 1800s, with very few deer, very few turkeys and songbirds in our state because people were not taking care of the resources we have.”

Blankenship said because of the work of the Conservation Department, Alabama has thriving deer and turkey populations, great inland fisheries for bass and crappie and the best red snapper, king mackerel and redfish fisheries anywhere along the Gulf Coast.

“I’m especially honored to dedicate this memorial wall to the 12 conservation officers that gave their lives protecting the resources we hold so valuable,” Blankenship said. “Ninety percent of the people care about our natural resources and follow the law and want to see our natural resources flourish. It’s that other 10 percent that make the enforcement officers’ jobs necessary and dangerous. There are many dangers our officers face. Every person our officers encounter has a gun, knife or some other weapon. The weather is also dangerous. I’ve been caught in bad weather on Mobile Bay or in the Gulf of Mexico where I’ve prayed that the good Lord would allow me to make it home.

“It was shocking to me that there would be 12 men pictured on this wall. I know how dangerous the job is, but it’s still sobering to see this many portraits of lives that have been lost. All of these men are special. All of these families are special. I hope you will join me and pray for the safety of our officers during your time with God every day.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

2 mins ago

Enterprise celebrates 100th anniversary of Boll Weevil Monument

On Wednesday the City of Enterprise celebrates the 100-year anniversary of its iconic Boll Weevil Monument.

The aforementioned Weevil is the only farming pest in the entire world to have its own monument.

The Boll Weevil destroyed many cotton crops in Southwest Alabama from 1915-1918, nearly bankrupting many farmers in the area. Some growers in the Enterprise area decided to grow peanuts as a way of avoiding ruination. The decision to diversify crops was so financially beneficial that the citizens of Enterprise erected the monument to the boll weevil.

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A plaque at Enterprise City Hall describes an appreciation for what the Boll Weevil “had done as the herald of prosperity and the catalyst to diversified farming.”

According to WTVY, the monument did not feature an actual depiction of the pest from 1919 until 1948 when R.J. Baker added the world-famous bug to the top of the statue.

Enterprise will be hosting a rededication ceremony on December 11 at 5:30 p.m. that interested citizens can attend in person, or watch via live stream on Facebook.

“We hope that this rededication ceremony will renew everyone’s spirit about the message about the boll weevil monument, and if you haven’t heard the message before, you’re going to hear it for the first time,” City of Enterprise Tourism Director Tammy Doerer told WTVY.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

30 mins ago

State Sen. Elliott vows another attempt at bill labeling offenses involving those attempting harm on law enforcement as a ‘hate crime’

Last week, Huntsville STAC Agent Bill Clardy III was shot and killed in the line of the duty, making Clardy the sixth such death in 2019 for Alabama and reflects an alarming trend for the state.

Earlier this year, State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) pushed for legislation that would include law enforcement employment as a protected class, just as race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability are.

However, the bill got bogged down in the Senate Judiciary Committee and never made it to the floor of the Alabama Senate for a vote. On Tuesday, Elliott told WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show” that he will take another shot at the legislation in 2020.

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“It got bogged down in committee,” Elliott explained. “It got some amendments on it in committee that really made it untenable to get to the floor. And I think we’re going to give that a try again, and I anticipate it getting to the floor without any other amendments. You’ll recall those amendments were making other things a hate crime as well. I think what we need to do is take this one step at a time and address the issue at hand as opposed to try to bog it down with amendments.”

“I mean, all law enforcement officers deserve better than a bill that is festooned with other amendments,” he added.

Elliott said his renewed effort on the legislation would be done out of respect to those slain officers.

“Any time you start loading up a bill with amendments like that, it becomes a problem,” Elliott said. “But whether you’re talking about Officer Clardy or Justin Bila here in Mobile, or a couple of years ago Baldwin County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Ward or others — you know, those guys deserve a clean bill and something we absolutely have a priority on.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

1 hour ago

Birmingham, Mountain Brook declared ‘TraffickingFree Zones’

On Tuesday, the cities of Birmingham and Mountain Brook announced that they have declared themselves “TraffickingFree Zones” in advance of the World Games that will be held in Birmingham in 2021.

Birmingham is the most populous city in America to make the declaration. The two cities join Vestavia Hills in proclaiming vigilance against the blight of human trafficking.

The proclamation requires all city staff to receive training on human trafficking and formalizes the cities’ “zero-tolerance” policy on buying sex at work.

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The proclamation asserts the flood of new people brought to the Birmingham area for the World Games could mean “an increase in tourists seeking entertainment, including commercial sex, increasing the potential risk for exploitation and human trafficking.”

“The first step in eliminating human trafficking in our community is to educate others,” the proclamation goes on to say.

The TraffickingFree Zone program the two cities are joining is a nationwide initiative of the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT).

Birmingham Councilor Crystal Smitherman, resolution sponsor, said, “Birmingham was the epicenter of the Civil Rights movement 60 years ago, and we once again have the opportunity to lead the nation in the fight for civil and human rights. We as a city take this issue incredibly seriously, and look forward to working with the countless trafficking organizations that make up the Child Trafficking Solutions Project on future endeavors to end child trafficking and keep our children safe.”

Mountain Brook Mayor Stewart Welch remarked, “The City of Mountain Brook takes this issue very seriously, and we vow to train our entire city staff, including first responders, to ensure that our children are safe and that our community is informed about human trafficking and what to do if they suspect a case of human trafficking.”

“The community response to the TraffickingFree Zone initiative is a testament to how seriously the entire Birmingham community, and the state of Alabama, is taking the issue,” advised USIAHT CEO Geoff Rogers.

Additional support for the movement comes from a Birmingham-area anti-trafficking coalition, the Child Trafficking Solutions Project (CTSP). The CTSP, which will handle the groundwork for the staff training, is a collaboration between the Children’s Policy Council and the Jefferson County Family Court.

Jordan Giddens, community engagement coordinator for the CTSP, said, “Our coalition, representing over 50 organizations across the Birmingham metro has worked tirelessly to saturate the entire Birmingham community with anti-trafficking awareness, and we are overjoyed that municipalities across the entire state are taking the steps to declare themselves a TraffickingFree Zone.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

4 hours ago

7 Things: Two articles of impeachment, polling has Sessions still up, Trump gets trade win and more …

7. Biden is still first, but Warren is falling

  • New polling data from the Quinnipiac University has been released that shows former Vice President Joe Biden is still in first place with 29%, but U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has moved up into second with 17%.
  • U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has fallen to third place with 15%, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is down to 9%, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg follows with 5% and entrepreneur Andrew Yang has 4%.

6. Stopping the spread of misinformation

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  • Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has met with Twitter and Facebook representatives in an effort to stop misinformation from spreading online throughout the state in preparation for the upcoming 2020 election cycle.
  • Merrill said that it’s important that everyone in Alabama is “informed with up-to-date, complete, and accurate information.” Merrill added, “[E]lection security and protocol is higher than ever in Alabama. We continue to introduce new ways to improve security every single day.”

5. Ainsworth has endorsed Ward

  • Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth took to Twitter to endorse State Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) for the Alabama Supreme Court. Ainsworth confirmed the endorsement, saying, “I am supporting his candidacy and encourage my friends to do the same.”
  • Ward responded to Ainsworth’s endorsement by saying he’s “honored” to have the support and that Ainsworth “knows my legislative record and the conservative values I will bring to our Supreme Court.”

4. Tuberville doubles down on his reasonable drag queen take

  • When former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville expressed that a Christmas parade may not be the appropriate place for a drag show, you knew the media would take the bait and attack him for it.
  • In response, Tuberville further explained that a parade designed for children isn’t really the place for this stuff. He stated, “Christmas is about celebrating with family,” adding, “Our public celebrations ought to be family-friendly for young and old.”

3. Democrats are supporting trade agreement

  • The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is now supported by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) caucus, which is the trade agreement that would replace NAFTA.
  • Pelosi’s announcement of her support comes only one day after Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) and State Representative Wes Allen (R-Troy) sent a letter to Pelosi pushing for her to support the trade agreement.

2. New polls in Alabama Senate race

  • The Alabama Farmers Federation has released new polling data that shows former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Auburn Football Coach are polling closely, with Sessions at 35% and Tuberville at 31%, whereas data released by the Sessions campaign showed that Sessions was at 44% and Tuberville was at 21%.
  • The Farmers Federation data also showed that U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) is at 12%, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is at 8% and State Representative Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) and Stanley Adair are only at 1% each.

1. Abuse of power and obstruction

  • The House Democrats have announced formal articles of impeachment they’re bringing against President Donald Trump, which are abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. In doing so, U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said that Trump “endangers our democracy; he endangers our national security.”
  • U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) responded to the articles of impeachment, saying it’s “nothing more than a pathetic witch hunt.” U.S. Representative Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) said that the “charges are so political, not even all their members will be able to stomach voting for them.”

4 hours ago

Mo Brooks: Obama’s attack on law enforcement tied to spike in police killed in the line of duty

On Friday, another Alabama police officer was shot and killed in the line of the duty, which was the sixth such death in 2019.

Huntsville STAC Agent Bill Clardy III was shot and killed. LaJeromeny Brown, the suspect behind the killing, was charged with capital murder. Clardy’s death is the latest in an alarming trend of law enforcement officers killed while on the job.

During an appearance on Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Tuesday, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) expressed his frustration over the circumstances surrounding Clardy’s murder. He argued there was more elected officials could do to reverse the trend.

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“It saddens me,” Brooks said on “The Jeff Poor Show.” “It angers me that we allow criminals to stay on our streets as long as we do with the kind of records that they have. If media reports of this man’s record are correct, he should never have been in a position where he could have been exposed to the public or where he could have murdered one of our police officers. I think it is good [U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama] Jay Town is looking into … why this man was at large when he should have been in a penitentiary somewhere serving a long, long sentence. So I am frustrated with our judicial system, and I just hate what happened. And I feel for the family.”

“A lot of this is what we’ve seen over the last decade or so where we’ve seen some political elements that seem to be anti-law enforcement,” he continued. “The more get public officials making anti-law enforcement statements, the more you’re encouraging people to resist law enforcement officers, even to the point of pulling out a gun and people getting killed. There is so much to it that frustrates me as an elected official, and so many things we as a society could be doing better to protect innocent Americans on the one hand and our brave law enforcement officers on the other.”

The Madison County Republican argued for one policy prescription, which was a review of how public officials support and publicly speak about law enforcement. Brooks pointed to former President Barack Obama’s rhetoric and how he handled some high-profile officer-involved incidents, which, according to Brooks, has created an environment more difficult for law enforcement.

“We need to have more public officials who support law enforcement,” Brooks explained. “Keep in mind that under the last administration — I hate to be so partisan, but this is the truth of the matter — under the last administration, any time a law enforcement officer did what he needed to do to protect the public, and an individual was killed in the following fray, the Obama administration would immediately attack law enforcement, and that kind of jumping to a conclusion that Barack Obama did so frequently and his attacks on law enforcement, and his support for African-Americans for no reason apparently other than they were African-American — it wasn’t about whether they were guilty or not. We saw what happened with Ferguson, Missouri, where the Obama administration immediately came to the defense of the African-American who was killed, attacked the law enforcement community, and then later on it turned out that this guy was a thug and just finished committing a forceful robbery.”

“Another follow-up on that is what happened in Texas where an African-American probably emboldened to some degree by these anti-law enforcement statements of elected officials decided to go on a killing rampage, and his targets were two types of people: law enforcement officers and whites,” he continued. “And that is what he said. Words are important. And our elected officials — if they don’t want anarchy, if they don’t want crime to rule, then they better be a whole lot more forceful in protecting our law enforcement officers and backing them up, or else you’re going to see more of this.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.