Alabama Lawmakers Could Hear From Alabama Game Wardens During 2007 Session

One of the benefits of being a game warden is getting a chance to work in the great outdoors but even this kind of job has its rough patches; in this case not enough help on the front lines.

"It means a one to two hour response time," said Assistant Chief Kevin Dodd.

Across the state of Alabama there is a shortage of game wardens. 15 openings right now, a number that could double in one year.

"Most of the people we're losing are due to retirements, job transfers and better-paying jobs," said Dodd.

According to state records, the last time Alabama lawmakers actually gave money to the Department of Conservation was 4 years ago to the tune of $75,000. Before that time and ever since the general feeling is the department could sustain itself through the money collected from hunting, fishing and boat registration fees. Dodd says they have but times are different now. The last time the state has increased hunting and fishing license fees for Alabama residents was 1989.

"With the cost of inflation, the cost of gas has gone up and equipment," Dodd said.

But help may be on the way. Weeks before the Alabama legislature meets for its 2007 session, Representative Alvin Holmes of Montgomery is already pledging his support to allocate general fund money to the department, assuming game warden officials can show the need is there.

"As a member of the Joint Budget Committee, I will support it 100% as long as they can show it," said Holmes.

The Conservation Department says it has game wardens assigned to every county from the Tennesee line to the Alabama Gulf Coast.  A few more, officials say, would lighten the load a little more.

The state fiscal office says last year user fees from hunting and fishing licenses and from boating registrations raised more than 17-million dollars for the Department of Conservation.

The game wardens were Alabama's first police officers back in 1907.