AUSTIN – Texas Parks and Wildlife’s game warden force has become only the fourth state conservation law enforcement agency to be accredited by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) Boat Operations and Training (BOAT) Program.

 “As the Texas Navy, our game wardens and the vessels they operate have an important role in maintaining the state’s maritime security, in addition to their day-to-day work in enforcing our conservation laws,” said TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith. “The training the wardens will receive by way of this accreditation will make these men and women and our coastwide fleet even more effective.”

Though the Republic of Texas had a battle-hardened navy in the 1830s and 1840s, it was former Gov. George W. Bush who first referred to TPWD’s modern fleet as the “Texas Navy.” Since then, the department’s fleet has grown to include564 vessels, including two 65-foot Gulf of Mexico patrol vessels, 26 Safeboats (a high-speed boat with an enclosed cabin that can be used in bays or the open Gulf) and a myriad of specialized vessels including 5 gun boats equipped with .30 caliber machine guns.

“For over 100 years, the TPWD game wardens have patrolled the land and waterways of our great state, protecting public safety and preserving our natural resources,” Gov. Rick Perry said. “They have set the gold standard for maritime operations, and this accreditation affirms their role as one of the nation’s elite law enforcement and emergency response operations.”

In addition to the game wardens who operate patrol vessels on the state’s public waters, TPWD’s Maritime Tactical Operations Group is a specialized unit made up of specially trained and equipped game wardens who can respond to critical waterborne incidents or other unique maritime operations.

“Now that our tactical maritime team has this prestigious accreditation, we will be working even more closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies with a maritime focus to protect the Texas coast for any contingency,” Smith said.

In preparation for their accreditation, the Law Enforcement Division developed strict training and policies to facilitate training in a wide range of maritime functions, including boat crew member training, boat operator search and rescue, boating accident investigation, boating under the influence enforcement, officer water survival, tactical boat operations, pursuit and stop techniques and small vessel radiation-nuclear device detection operations.

“Effective partnering at multiple levels of government is the key to Homeland Security," said Rear Admiral Kevin Cook, Commander, 8thCoast Guard District.  "Our relationship with Texas Parks and Wildlife is based on mutual concern for the safety and security of port operators and the maritime public. This accreditation further assures common standards of training and seamless integration between our organizations, which increases both organizations' overall readiness to respond."

The NASBLA accreditation is based on U.S. Coast Guard-recognized national standards for the training, qualification, credentialing and typing of maritime law enforcement and emergency first responders. The only other state law enforcement agencies with NASBLA accreditation are the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries,the Massachusetts Environmental Police, and Ohio Department of Natural Resources.