S.C. Natural Resources salutes top officers for year

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) honored its Regional and Statewide Officers of the Year for 2018 at an Oct. 5 banquet and ceremony in Columbia. Lance Cpl. John “JP” Jones of Islandton was named SCDNR Statewide Officer of the Year.

Named for the late Col. R.W. “Bobby” Gifford, the annual awards ceremony was delayed this year by Hurricane Florence and the post-hurricane flooding that ravaged the Pee Dee and upper coast of the state. Dozens of SCDNR officers and other agency staff were deployed to the region to assist during the hurricane and its aftermath.

The S.C. Wildlife Officers’ Association, the Harry Hampton Wildlife Fund, the family of Chief Gifford and the SCDNR come together each year to honor the state’s top conservation officers.

Lance Cpl. Brian Welch received the Officer of the Year award for SCDNR Region 1.

Welch joined the SCDNR in 2007 and is assigned to Pickens County.

This past year, he was assigned a K-9 as a part of the Department’s newly reformed K-9 Team. Welch and his K-9, Max, deployed 51 times this past year, resulting in 30 cases, including trespassing to hunt, hunting and fishing license violations, hunting from a public road, failure to tag turkey, WMA violations, hunting deer out of season, litter, over the limit of trout, hunting on state park land, hunting turkey over bait, hunting bear over bait and taking a bear out of season.

Private First Class Brittany English won the Officer of the Year award for SCDNR Region 2.

English joined the SCDNR in 2015 and is assigned to Marlboro County. His supervisor describes him as a tenacious officer who is thorough and precise in his investigations. One recent case investigated by Officer English involved a five-month investigation that resulted in 24 night hunting cases.

Private First Class Treye Byars received the Officer of the Year award for SCDNR Region 3.

Byars joined the SCDNR in 2013 and is assigned to Richland County. In July 2017, he received a tip regarding possible illegal dumping from a concerned citizen. The report described a tanker truck suspiciously backed into a wooded area on multiple occasions. Byars found what appeared to be a chemical spill on the ground. Byars contacted DHEC and set up multiple cameras to begin surveillance of the area. That strategy paid off when he captured the suspect on camera dumping into a ditch that drains through the Wateree River Heritage Preserve WMA and into the Wateree River. The EPA partnered with the SCDNR to prosecute the case.

Lance Cpl. John “J.P.” Jones was recognized for Region 4 and as the Statewide Officer of the year.

Since joining the SCDNR in 2007, Jones has been assigned to Colleton County. His supervisor describes him as an officer who is always willing to help other officers in his Unit and Region. This past year, the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office was investigating a ring of burglaries occurring on local plantations and farms. Using the SCDNR airplane, Jones was able to locate and photograph the stolen equipment hidden in the woods. Thanks to his efforts, the Sheriff’s Office was able to successfully prosecute the individuals who were responsible. More than $1 million in stolen items were recovered.

Public outreach is also a big part of Jones’ success. When Colleton County began considering the construction of a public fishing pier, Jones took it upon himself to get involved to help his community. Recognizing the need for residents and visitors to have a place to enjoy their local natural resources, Jones met with the county leadership on several occasions and took them to several locations in order to determine the best possible one.

His hard work and vision led to the planning of the first saltwater fishing pier in Colleton County. The pier is scheduled to be completed by 2019.

Sgt. Jim Shelton, an SCDNR Officer since 1999, was honored as the Education and Investigations Section Officer of the Year.

Shelton is assigned to the Law Enforcement Education Section covering Charleston, Berkley, Georgetown and Horry Counties. This past year, he was responsible for teaching 37 hunter ed classes and 26 boater ed classes for a total of 63 classes. He gave 70 public presentations which included 37 live fire ranges and 30 archery ranges.

Richland County Officer Private First Class Stephen Bryant was honored for his selection as the NASBLA (National Association of State Boating Law Administrators) Officer of the Year.

Bryant enjoys educating the public on safe boating, which is evidenced by the 26 public safety presentations to youth groups, churches, schools, camps and various media outlets.

Author: Rachel Howell

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