MEEKER I Bailey Franklin, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife District Wildlife Manager from Meeker, has been named the agency’s 2014 John D. Hart Wildlife Officer of the Year.
The prestigious award is given yearly to an officer who exemplifies the qualities of its namesake—a well-rounded game warden who possesses deep knowledge and expertise in biology, science, social mores, leadership, law enforcement and wildlife management in addition to earning the deep respect of his peers.
Franklin, a third-generation cattle rancher working for CPW in his hometown of Meeker, considers himself a “game warden” in every sense of the word—“the old-fashioned kind that gets things done.”
“I am very proud just to have been nominated, and the fact that I was selected is something I appreciate in a way that makes it hard to find the right words to express my gratitude,” Franklin said. “This is a surprise to me, and considering all of the professional officers I work with on a daily basis, I couldn’t be more humbled by this.”
Flanked by his proud family, Franklin received the award from CPW Director Bob Broscheid during a recent Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting in Craig.
“I am truly blessed to have the strong support of my wife, my daughter, my two sons and my parents; that’s what makes it possible for me to do what I love to do,” he said. “This is a job that keeps me away from home for long periods. It can be tough, but my family understands my commitment to the state’s wildlife, and how important this profession is to me.”
Franklin’s exploits are well-known in his hometown, and in the greater law enforcement community.
In one of his more recognized efforts, Franklin led an investigation that resulted in a lengthy prison sentence for a poacher from Meeker. The former outfitter had been profiting by illegally baiting wildlife with salt, then bringing his out-of-state clients in for easy kills.
“Bailey, true to form, dug deep into this case.” said Franklin’s supervisor, Area Wildlife Manager Bill deVergie. “He conducted surveillance, he took soil samples, placed remote cameras and checked them every three days for five months. After several years of investigation, his hard work paid off with the extensive documentation of 50 bait sites, finally bringing a long-time poacher to justice.”
DeVergie adds that Franklin enforces wildlife laws in the same town where he grew up, a unique and sometimes challenging situation for any officer.
“Bailey is fair and treats everyone with respect, so he has earned the trust of the community,” said de Vergie. “His goal is not to punish but to educate, leading many in the area to seek him out to either give him info or turn themselves in if they have violated the law, knowing that he would probably find out anyway.”
Among his other duties, Franklin is the Meeker office’s representative on the local CPW Habitat Partnership Program, dedicated to forming relationships with landowners, land management agencies and sportsmen. Through his leadership, he has helped reduce big game conflicts by improving habitat on a landscape-scale with a wide variety of creative strategies. In addition, he created detailed monitoring protocols to successfully measure the success and benefits of each project.
He is also instrumental in organizing and leading numerous agency programs, including horse pack training for CPW trainees and protecting wildlife habitat into the future by securing conservation easements, including developing the management plans for the properties.
In addition, Franklin works with local landowners to organize and lead mentored, private land hunts designed to instill a respect for Colorado’s hunting heritage, wildlife and the outdoors in novice hunters.
“I am very proud to be a game warden,” Franklin said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else. I thank my family at home, the family I work with every day and the good people in my district. I owe them all tremendously for making this possible.”
The John D. Hart award was named after the legendary Colorado wildlife officer who retired as assistant director in 1959. Hart epitomized the agency’s commitment to preserving and enhancing Colorado’s wildlife and the aggressive pursuit of poachers.
The award recognizes outstanding service inspired by these ideals.