HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA - Following 49 weeks of intensive training, the 27th Class of the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Ross Leffler School of Conservation today graduated and commissioned as Wildlife Conservation Officers (WCO) during ceremonies as Susquehanna Township High School. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin was the keynote speaker.
The 22 new officers reported to the RLSC training facility at the agency's Harrisburg headquarters on April 1, 2007. Included in their 49 weeks of classroom instruction and field training were wildlife management; law enforcement; wildlife laws and regulations; land management practices; conservation education; public relations; firearms training; and unarmed self-defense.
Game Commission WCOs are responsible for administering a wide variety of agency programs within an assigned district of about 350 square miles. Primary duties include law enforcement, responding to wildlife conflicts, conservation education, and administration of the Hunter-Trapper Education program. Officers also are responsible for supervising and training part-time Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officers.
"This WCO Class will fill 21 of the 32 vacant WCO districts, but we still will have 11 districts vacant with another six districts probably vacant by the end of this fiscal year," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "By June of 2010, we anticipate a return to more than 30 WCO vacancies statewide. So, we plan to have another WCO class enrolled in March of 2009, but that decision, ultimately, will be driven by the availability of funds."
During the ceremonies, four graduates were recognized for achievements in the areas of academics, marksmanship, physical fitness and leadership.
WCO Graduate Jason D. Farabaugh received the class award for academics, with a score of 99.3 percent. The class' average score was 96.7 percent.
WCO Graduate Daniel C. Puhala was honored with the marksmanship award, scoring 464 out of a possible 500 points.
WCO Graduate Rick D. Finnegan was selected as the fitness award winner for maintaining the highest standard of physical fitness during the 49-week training program.
And, WCO Graduate Michael J. Reeder was chosen by his classmates to receive the "Torch Award for Leadership."
Members of the 27th Class, their hometowns and their new assignments are:
Cory A. Bentzoni of Kunkletown, Monroe County, to Monroe County;
Kevin H. Clouser of Ashland, Schuylkill County, to Schuylkill County;
Derek A. Daly of Narvon, Lancaster County, to Bureau of Wildlife Protection, Harrisburg headquarters;
Christopher J. Deal of Connequenessing, Butler County, to Centre County;
Jason D. Farabaugh of Carroltown, Cambria County, to Fayette County;
John G. Fetchkan II of Ephrata, Lancaster County, to Cumberland County;
Rick D. Finnegan of Hunlock Creek, Luzerne County, to Sullivan County;
David L. Grove of Waynesboro, Franklin County, to Adams County;
Lawrence R. Hergenroeder of Marienville, Forest County, to Mercer County;
Wayne A. Hunt of St. Marys, Elk County, to Cameron County;
Matthew G. Kramer of Oakdale, Allegheny County, to Beaver County;
Mark J. Kropa of Courtdale, Luzerne County, to Pike County;
Raymond H. Madden of Red Lion, York County, to Montgomery County;
Scott M. Malicky of Pleasant Mount, Wayne County, to Monroe County;
Seth T. Mesoras of Johnstown, Cambria County, to Westmoreland County;
Daniel C. Puhala of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, to Allegheny County;
Michael J. Reeder of Hummelstown, Dauphin County, to York County;
Christopher K. Skipper of Huntingdon, Huntingdon County, to Lackawanna County;
Michael J. Steingraber of Wellsboro, Tioga County, to Centre County;
Andrew D. Troutman of Clarion, Clarion County, to Bradford County;
Dennis J. Warfel of East Petersburg, Lancaster County, to Lancaster County; and
Michael J. Webb of Lebanon, Lebanon County, to Susquehanna County.
In 1930, Ross Leffler, the then president of the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners, proposed the establishment of a training school for game protectors. When the training school opened its doors in 1932, in Brockway, Jefferson County, it was the first such conservation officer training school in the world and served as a model for other states. From 1932 until 1935, the Ross Leffler School of Conservation offered in-service training for game protectors. The Commission voted to make the school a permanent facility and enrolled its first class of trainees in 1936, and continued training new classes at this facility until 1986. In 1987, the training school was moved to the Harrisburg headquarters, which just opened the doors to its current facility in Susquehanna Township, Dauphin County.
Jerry Feaser (717) 705-6541 or PGCNews@state.pa.us