US Forest Service Officer of the Year: Dedicated officer covers 192,000 acres by himself

As the sole law enforcement officer for 192,000 acres of the Grandfather Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest, U.S. Forest Service Officer Wade Keener of McDowell County, NC covers a lot of territory. Now he’s doing it carrying the title U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for the entire nation.

“I never thought I would win,” Keener told The McDowell News. “I thought someone in this agency of around 550 officers nationwide would have done something more deserving.”

Keener has been in law enforcement for 28 years, 15 of those with the U.S. Forest Service. He started his career in the U.S. Army Military Police, then on to two civilian agencies before beginning his career with the forest service. “The best thing about working for the U.S. Forest Service is the people I work with and met. I can hike any trail and get paid for it, that’s always a plus,” said Keener.

Keener’s area of operation covers five counties, including two developed campgrounds, 10 day-use areas and over 300 miles of trails including the Linville Gorge Wilderness areas. His normal duties include patrolling the vast number of more than 200 dispersed campsites, and on any given weekend he will visit and talk to each and every camper in well over 50 campsites.

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