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Conservation officers are island's oft-forgotten resource

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When there's a case of illegal hunting in the island's jungles or illegal fishing in the island's marine preserves, the Guam Department of Agriculture's Conservation officers are the ones who respond. But during an informational hearing at the Guam Congress Building this morning it leaves you wondering how they could possibly be able to do with their jobs with the obstacles they're confronted with on a daily basis.

"It's really a wonder why they're still around," said Mark Aguon. Conservation officers that have been around for almost thirty years, as Aguon said, "We have guys here that haven't been promoted in almost 27 years, yet he holds a masters degree. Where's the fairness in that?"

Department of Agriculture Director Matthew Sablan went to bat for his conservation officers who are loyal to a fault. "As far as resources they come up with their own expense just to maintain for the day the operations," he said.

There are only eight conservation officers tasked with protecting the entire island's natural resources.... we're talking protecting endangered species, catching poachers, responding to forestry fires, and protecting the island's marine preserves and anything and everything that happens three miles out into the sea. But it's amazing how they're able to do their jobs when.

Conservation Officer Aguon said, "Our patrol vehicles are down to one 14 years old and its barely hanging on."

They have two hand-me-down boats: one is 40-years-old, the other over 20 years old but only one is operable and that's only thanks to parts that were donated by the private sector. They also have two jet skis-both are also out of commission - they use their own cell phones as a hotline number and even when they reached out to a sister government agency they got no love just the "f" word, as they were told, as Aguon recollects, "Go fundraise."

Conservation officers don't even have a permanent office instead it's being use to store evidence and records. The office was condemned but taking up residence are termites. "This is what happens when you don't' have proper care and proper facilities," he explained.

For the three senators that were actually present, they got an earful from the clearly frustrated but dedicated officers who have gone above and beyond their duty despite the lack of resources, support and promotions. "We all know what's going on with our political leaders with pay raises and all that but what about us. When you talk about grass roots boots on ground we go out there and we mesh and we tangle with the worse of them out there," he said.

On an added note, the number of conservation officers could drop down to four because of military deployments. Meanwhile, three officers should be promoted in about a month, leaving three positions to fill.

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