This book follows the adventures of Steve Callan and some of his fellow game wardens as they patrol the land and parks in California....moreRating: 3.5 stars
This book follows the adventures of Steve Callan and some of his fellow game wardens as they patrol the land and parks in California. Books and stories about wardens, rangers, and the like fascinate me because it's cool to see the behind-the-scenes stuff in parks that you wouldn't learn about otherwise.
The book kind of started out slow for me. I had to get used to the style. The last similar book I'd read was The Last Season by Eric Blehm, which focused on the disappearance of a backcountry ranger, Randy Morgenson, also in California. That book was full of detail, exploring history, back-stories, related topics, etc. But, it was also written by a journalist. This book is written by the warden himself, so it was a matter of getting used to the 'just the facts, ma'am' style. Though Callan does provide some detail (more in some situations, less in others), I would have liked more of that background information.
But overall, this book was an interesting and sometimes wild ride into the life of wardens and what they encounter on a daily basis. And what they encounter - I mean, other than the obvious wildlife - is all sorts of humans. Humans being stupid, being crazy, being ignorant, some making innocent mistakes. I hadn't really considered how dangerous the job could be.
Federal statistics indicate that the two most dangerous law enforcement jobs in America are drug enforcement agent (DEA) and game warden. These criteria are based on the chance of being killed on duty. A very high percentage of the people that wildlife officers deal with are carrying firearms. More often than not, Fish and Game officers are working alone, miles from the closest backup.
Throughout the book, I think Callan's love of wildlife and nature shows. At the same time, he questions whether what he does is really making a difference, especially when dealing with poachers, selfish people, greedy people, people who don't care, etc. (To be honest, I feel like that a lot as well, especially while reading books like this or when listening to other people's opinions on these kinds of subjects.)
Over the twenty-one years following that first incident, I made hundreds of similar salmon cases. I often asked myself, Am I really making a difference chasing violators around at all hours of the day and night? While my crew and I were saving a few salmon here and there, millions of these valuable fish were being destroyed every year. Fingerling salmon and steelhead were being diverted into irrigation ditches and out into fields. Water diversions were robbing streams of enough cold water to sustain fish. Dams and other manmade obstacles were cutting fish off from traditional spawning grounds. Pollutants were pouring into rivers, streams and the Pacific Ocean from a thousand different sources. A juvenile salmon has a one in a thousand chance of making it from a hatched egg, downstream to the Pacific Ocean and, three or four years later, back upstream to spawn. I felt that if one of those incredible fish somehow made the 300-mile journey back from the ocean—past all the predators, the obstacles, the pollutants and the legal fishermen—it deserved a chance to spawn and perpetuate the species. That’s if some outlaw didn't snag it, net it, spear it, shoot it, club it or hit it with a rock.
All biological, statistical and practical reasons aside, I had to do what I could to increase each fish’s chances of survival, no matter how inadequate my efforts.
Unfortunately, "[i]t seems like nothing good lasts forever, particularly when it comes to our natural resources. Someone always comes along wanting to change things, or as developers like to say, make them better." Thankfully, Callan has "never believed that man can improve upon nature," and I'm glad there are people like him protecting nature.
Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review from LibraryThing.(less)