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Conservation officer recognized for arrest in turkey-baiting case

August 05, 2013|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Cpl. Scott Forrest of the Maryland Natural Resources Police recently was named Conservation Officer of the Year by the Maryland chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. The Foundation presented him a print of turkeys in the wild.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

Cpl. Scott Forrest of the Maryland Natural Resources Police has always loved the outdoors.

His childhood was filled with hunting and fishing with his father and two brothers. An older cousin also was involved in outdoor activities, which added to Forrest’s interest.

In high school, he realized he wanted a career that focused in that area.

After graduating from Smithsburg High School in 1986, Forrest studied forestry for a year at Allegany College of Maryland, then switched fields and transferred to Frederick (Md.) Community College.

He earned an associate degree in park management and not long after, was one of about 40 recruits hired by the Maryland Park Service as a law enforcement ranger at Fort Frederick State Park.

“My office is two counties and the outdoors. I don’t think you could ask for anything else,” said Forrest, 44.

He had taken the Natural Resource Police cadet test, but the park service offered him a job first. Now the two law enforcement agencies have merged and are one under the NRP.

“I’ve sort of come full circle,” Forrest said.

Forrest recently was named Conservation Officer of the Year by the Maryland chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

He was nominated by Acting Sgt. Russell Boback for the spring 2012 arrest and conviction of a person who was baiting wild turkey, hunting with a rifle and hunting without a license.

“Baiting turkeys is something we take pretty seriously. It’s obviously an unfair advantage. The wildlife division has worked hard in the past 30 years to get the turkey population back up. Some people try to take shortcuts,” Forrest said.

He was promoted to the rank of corporal in September 2012.

“I was very surprised and also honored for being recognized for the work. I don’t take all of the credit. Several of us were involved,” Forrest said.

Even though Forrest is assigned to Washington County, he said he serves Area 7, which also includes Frederick County, but is not bound by county lines. He has statewide jurisdiction and is not assigned to a specific state park.

Forrest’s job varies by season, with boating safety and patrolling state parks the focus in the summer.

Fall means hunting patrols and responding to complaints of trespassing, mostly on private property, and spring is spent checking trout streams and monitoring bass fishing.

Spring also is turkey season, with a much shorter season in the fall.

“We really don’t have a downtime anymore,” he said. 

Safety is a priority on the job, with officers always working in pairs. Forrest said whether it’s deer or turkey season, they’re often dealing with people with firearms.

“It can be unnerving walking into an area not knowing where the subject is,” he said.

Forrest said Pennsylvania Wildlife Conservation Officer David Grove was killed in November 2010 doing the same thing Forrest routinely does.

Some people, he said, violate laws unknowingly, while others have “total disregard for natural-resources law,” Forrest said.
“Those are the types of cases we like to make.”

Forrest and his wife, Rhonda, have been married for 22 years.

Their 20-year-old son, who also enjoys hunting and fishing, and 18-year-old daughter, who used to fish, are in college.

“I haven’t regretted it a day of my life. I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Forrest said of his 24-year career.

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