California Department of Fish and Wildlife
This article was originally printed in Outdoor California magazine, September - October 2003.
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This is a 3-part article. All parts of the article are listed below.

Where Do You Report an Environmental Crime?

By Ann Hennessey
Crestridge Ecological Reserve

Environmental crimes include poaching, polluting and damage to habitat. These mounds are the work of vandals who used a bulldozer on an ecological reserve, destroying habitat.

Photo © Ann Hennessey

Hotlines exist for just about every topic, including the environment here in California. Witnesses to environmental crimes like poaching, polluting or destruction of habitat and vandalism on wildlife areas and ecological reserves have a toll free number to call, too. In California, call 1-888-DFGCALTIP (888-334-2258), named for the Californians Turn In Poachers and Polluters program. The 24-hour hotline will connect with local law enforcement officers who can best handle the situation. Those who come across people misusing an ecological reserve should immediately report what they saw but should not confront wrongdoers themselves, experts advise.

"That should trigger some rather immediate response," said Leslie Reynolds, coordinator of The Earth Discovery Institute. "No confrontations are advised."

Try to remember what you saw, where you were, and get a description of the people and vehicles involved, recommended Doran Sanchez, a spokesperson with the federal Bureau of Land Management. License plate numbers can help.

Then, let the agency involved investigate the matter, Sanchez said. Those who appear to break the law may actually have a permit for what they're doing, he said. For example, the warden on the Crestridge Ecological Reserve has a permit for a motorcycle so he can try to keep up with those who are breaking the law.

Likewise, hikers should not ignore what appears to be misuse of public land, Sanchez said. If something looks wrong, report it. "That's just responsible use," he said. "It's like what you'd do if you saw someone breaking into your neighbor's house."

Turn the person in. It takes just one call, toll free, and you can remain anonymous.

Ann Hennessey is a freelance writer and teacher in Southern California.